Snow wardens prepared to keep their communities moving

Snow Warden Peter Smerdon

Posted on: 11 January 2017

With the possibility of snow forecast in the coming days, snow warden volunteers across Devon are prepared and ready should they be called upon this winter.

A band of rain tomorrow morning could turn wintry by the afternoon, and freeze in the evening, with the potential for a few centimetres of snow tomorrow afternoon and overnight on Thursday evening.

Devon County Council is planning to send out its gritting teams on all of its precautionary salting routes from around lunchtime tomorrow, which could initially be in the rain to ensure there is some salt present prior to the snow and freezing road temperatures, even though some is expected to be washed away. It is urging people to be aware and take extra care when out and about, and particularly when planning their journey home tomorrow afternoon and evening.

More than 250 towns and parishes in the county have snow wardens in place as part of their self-help plans, in case Devon is hit by prolonged severe weather.

The scheme was launched by Devon County Council six years ago, following extreme weather in the two preceding winters.

Snow Wardens are the key point of contact between the local community and the County Council, and provide vital support to the authority’s winter service. The volunteers receive advice and training from Devon County Council on how to clear snow and spread salt effectively.

The authority also covers third party public liability for the treatment undertaken as part of the snow warden scheme.

Peter Smerdon, one of the snow wardens in the parish of Rattery, is among those on standby throughout the season.

He said: “This scheme lends itself very well to rural communities. Rural areas are always prepared to help themselves, and others, simply because if you’re away from a larger population, you have to. As we’re only volunteers we can’t turn out at 3am to do preventative gritting but we’re ready if we get icy conditions. We’re well prepared.”

Devon County Council has a fleet of 37 frontline gritters available to treat 2,000 miles of primary and secondary salting routes, covering around 25% of the county’s road network. Last winter, around 10,000 tonnes of salt were used on Devon’s roads.

Councillor Stuart Hughes

Cllr Stuart Hughes

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management and Snow Warden for Sidmouth and Sidford, said: “With an 8,000 mile road network to look after it’s impossible for the County Council to salt all of our roads. The Snow Wardens provide a huge help to the County Council during prolonged cold spells; they are an additional resource on top of the winter service the County Council provides as they are able to treat roads which our gritters are unable to cover. The volunteers have really taken ownership of the scheme over the years. They provide an important link to their community, using their local knowledge to ensure their local priorities are met with the salt we’ve provided them.

“The forecast for rain, possibly turning to sleet or snow and mixed with colder temperatures tomorrow afternoon and into Friday could make for challenging conditions. I would urge everyone to take extra care, allow more time for your journey and remember that it’s not only roads that get icy at this time of year – care should also be taken on paths, pavements and trails.”

Road users are reminded of the following advice:

• Avoid overnight travel unless absolutely essential as roads will always be more hazardous at night with less traffic and colder temperatures;
• Never assume a road has been salted. Remember that showers or rain will wash salt off roads leaving them prone to ice, and in extreme cold even salting will not stop ice from forming;
• Allow additional time for your journey and reduce your speed;
• Drive with care and according to the conditions;
• If you have vulnerable or elderly neighbours, think about how they could possibly be helped through the cold spell;
• Try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18C, particularly if you are not mobile, have long term illness or are 65 or over;
• Listen to local radio for updates on current weather conditions and ensure you are stocked with food and medications.

To find out more about the Snow Warden scheme go to
or contact Parish Council representatives who can liaise with their local Neighbourhood Highway Officer.

For more information and travel advice from Devon County Council visit: or for updates on Twitter follow @DevonAlert

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