Storm Darcy: Tribute paid to Falkirk road team's gruelling 74-hour shift

Two photographs taken half an hour apart during last week's heavy snowfall show the blizzard conditions facing Falkirk Council's team of gritters last week.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 8:00 am

The first snap from Limerigg weather station shows a snowy road with a clear path through - and just 31 minutes later, a complete white out again, with no trace of a gritter having been there.

It was a difficult time for the team, who worked solidly through an amber weather warning for 74 hours to clear Falkirk's priority routes - and then clear them again.

And again ...

Limerigg Station before and after the snow fell

With all 12 of the council's gritters being used to keep priority routes clear, there was no chance to move on to roads in housing schemes, although the team did make sure that vaccination and Covid test centres were able to open and also helped some families attend funerals.

That meant people across the district grabbing shovels and getting to work to clear pavements and even roads in their own patches.

This week, roads manager Dorothy Reid thanked everyone for their efforts.

The gritted road at Limerigg Station ...

She said: "There has been a huge community effort in areas away from our priority routes where people have come together and gone over and above, clearing roads and gritting roads.

"We really want to thank them for everything they have done."

But she also would like people to understand the effort that her team puts in - working 24 hours a day - to tackle the worst of the weather.

The unusual conditions saw heavy bursts of snowfall combined with a very strong wind from the east that created drifting, particularly in the Braes area.

... and the road at Limerigg Station just 30 minutes later as the snow swept in

Ms Reid said: "It was difficult and a bit demoralising for the teams because they felt like they had just got things cleared and then they had to start again.

"We started on Monday lunchtime with two continuous 24-hour shifts and that was with 12 gritters across the network.

"It wasn't like normal when we treat for ice and then the guys can go home - they had to get reloaded again and go back out and treat the network over again."

In just one week, they used 2000 tonnes of salt - half the amount that is normally spread in an entire year, as temperatures as low as minus 8.5 celcius were recorded.

"We have to remember that the team had to work through an amber weather warning," said Ms Reid.

"To be out alone in a rural area in conditions like that is very challenging.

"It takes a lot of concentration to drive even a car in snow but when you're in charge in one of these huge gritters and trying to plough, it's not easy!"

Councillor Paul Garner, environment spokesperson, also paid tribute.

He said: "The guys have been out in all conditions, and I do think that the priority one and priority two routes were treated exceptionally well."

Mr Garner also thanked communities for playing their part.

In particular, he was delighted with the enthusiasm of a group of volunteers in the Denny area who are piloting a 'winter warden' scheme - something they hope will roll out across the district.

He said: "It's been very positive and hopefully that progresses and we get more groups around the area."

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