Councillors briefed on severe weather plan for winter months

Some 1,000 tonnes of grit and 15,000 sandbags are in storage for use by Westmeath County Council in preparation for any serious weather conditions this winter.

Director of services Barry Kehoe told councillors at last week's county council meeting that, in the event of severe freezing or flooding, the council has stockpiled substantial quantities of both, and has access to more if needed.

With many parts of the county still reeling from the record flooding of last winter 2015/16, Mr Kehoe said the council's Flood Response is being updated, and that water levels on the Shannon are being monitored on an ongoing basis.

Additional minor works are underway in Athlone, and a flood response vehicle has been purchased and is available for use. More than 100,000 sandbags were used in Athlone during last winter's severe flooding.

There is no change to the county's road gritting schedule from last winter. Some 426km of primary, secondary, regional, and local roads are on the council's list for gritting, while Transport Infrastructure Ireland (formerly the NRA ) are responsible for Westmeath's motorways and dual carriageways.

Strategic footpaths in Athlone and Mullingar will also be treated. However Mr Kehoe stressed that community involvement is also essential in the event of prolonged periods of freezing or heavy snow, as the council cannot get to all areas.

The council makes use of seven mounted stainless steel gritters, 12 snowploughs, a loading shovel, and a JCB excavator. Every gritting event costs the council €6,700. In recent years, the highest number of callouts was 76 in the winter of 2010/11, while last winter, 2015/16, there were 48 callouts.

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