Transport and the potential difficulties of getting out and about come to mind when I think of January. Whether it is coming across a flooded lane on the way to work or sliding across icy roads as a driver or a pedestrian, the winter months can present some challenges.
Preparation is important when heavy snow and/or floods can cut off villages and small towns. Suggestions for coping include stocking UHT/Long-life milk and some frozen bread and vegetables. Put a torch in a place where you can find it quickly. Check your oil levels and have your boiler serviced, cover your outdoor tap and combi boiler condensate pipes (the bit outside that can freeze). Check on elderly neighbours who may find it harder to get out in the snow and ice and can be trapped at home. If you live alone or are frail, it is important to get out in your local area all year. Use your shops, local pubs and social groups so that people will know about you and think of you at these times. Ensure you have alerted your utilities providers that you are a priority customer. Don’t forget to prepare for storms by securing anything outside including taking care of your trees – willow branches are prone to snapping and need branches with cracks or rot removed. Contact Western Power Distribution or telecoms providers if a tree is hanging over or brushing on lines. Listen to local radio and check if buses are running and whether it is advisable to drive.
The roads have all been dressed this year, which improves skidding resistance and helps prevent those nasty potholes but in turn, the gritting routes have been reduced. Check with your village as some parishes have their own grit stores to distribute and may appreciate help with this. If you do need to drive in snow or ice make sure you are prepared – check your tyres and have a fluorescent, warm coat, boots, torch and a bottle of water with you. When driving on an icy road, the first thing to remember is to slow down. You are more likely to see an ice patch and will be able to correct for it. It is frightening when your car gets a mind of its own and the presence of flood filled, deep ditches at the side of our roads doesn’t help. Advice copied from DVSA follows:
Don’t accelerate suddenly or harshly. Don’t brake harshly. Don’t brake while cornering. Watch out for slippery road surfaces and keep your speed down if you think the road is slippery. Use engine braking as well as the brakes to slow the vehicle down. If you do encounter a skid, steer gently into it, for example if the rear of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right. Do not take your hands off the steering wheel or brake hard.
Many people take the risk and drive through the floods. This is a real risk as the car can float or travel on strong currents. Water can find its way into the air intake on some vehicles, causing serious engine damage even in shallow floods. If you have checked that it is shallow enough to drive through, the water is probably deepest near the kerb and shallowest at the crown. Drive in first gear as slowly as possible but keep the engine speed high and steady by slipping the clutch. If the engine speed is too low, you might stall. If you go too fast, you could create a bow wave. Water will flood the engine and it could cut out. Test your brakes as soon as you can afterwards. More advice can be found at www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/winter-driving/
If you were part of the floods in 2014, you will receive a questionnaire from us (Community Council for Somerset). Public Health England (PHE) is to conduct the first ever long term study into the impact of flooding on health and wellbeing. Please look on our website or phone a Village Agent if you would like to receive one and haven’t already. www.somersetrcc.org.uk/national-study-flooding-health/
After all those cautionary words, don’t forget to enjoy those beautiful sunrises and the chance of a snow day!!
Surviving Winter grants are available for older people living in Somerset, who are unable to adequately heat their homes. If you are struggling to afford to heat your home this winter contact me for more information.