Edinburgh Still Digging Out of Heaviest Snowfall in Decades

Submitted by edg on Thu, 2 Dec '10 8.44am

Edinburgh is still under a thick blanket of snow, what many are saying is the heaviest in living memory. The snowy, freezing conditions are not expected to abate, but people can take some comfort from the Met office forecast of lighter snow showers in coming days.

For now, though, the disruptions are continuing. Today's severe weather warning issued by the Met Office at 8am for Edinburgh and Lothians was for another layer of the white stuff:

"Snow showers will continue today with still some on the heavy side. This will give further accumulations of 2 to 5cm with up to 10cm over high ground."

Edinburgh Airport closed til 4pm

Edinburgh Airport was closed yesterday due to "unprecedented" snowfalls, and it was then advising people not to travel to the airport.

More James Glossop runway pics showing our snow ploughs hard ... on Twitpic

After working around the clock to clear the runway it was expected to open at 10am today, but had to push that time further back a couple of hours this morning as the white stuff kept coming down.

A short while later it then pushed that revised opening time back again. 

"The snow has continued all morning, forcing us to delay opening to 4pm. Please don't travel to the airport before then," the Airport tweeted.

The Forth Bridge, which was closed for the first time yesterday from 6.30am to 5pm due to heavy snow, is currently open.

However, the M8 and the Edinburgh ring road are down to single lanes in places.

Bus services and trains are continuing to be affected by the weather. For example, Scotrail's service between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central via Shotts is suspended today.

Road clearing

Edinburgh City Council workers have been struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of snowfall. Many city streets are under a blanket of white with cars lining the streets transformed into amorphous blobs.

The council is calling this "the worst snowfall since 1963". Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who was out yesterday with prisoners - they were clearing snow in Stockbridge - said it was Scotland's worst snowfall "since 1965". Whatever year the snow was worst, it's clearly been overwhelming this time round.

Extra hands on deck

Edinburgh Council said that street cleaning and gardeners have been drafted in to help with the snow clearing effort, along with refuse collection staff. There has been a limited rubbish collection service, mainly in the city centre and main roads.

Since the weekend, contractors have also been drafted in with JCB vehicles, supplementing the 75 road staff, 180 task force staff and 90 refuse staff already re-organised to boost efforts to keep the road network open.

Gritting has continued to focus on main roads so that ambulance drivers, emergency vehicles and funeral cars have access to city streets.

However, the Council said that snow removal workers have been faced with "exceptional levels of snow on roads and pavements as well as obstacles such as abandoned cars."

The Council has used over 2,000 tonnes of salt between 25 November and 1 December. Supplies were standing at around 5,000 tonnes, yesterday morning.

"Do your bit"

Councillor Robert Aldridge, Environmental Leader, encouraged people to "do their bit" by clearing drives, pathways and pavements and looking out for their elderly and vulnerable neighbours (the Social Care Direct telephone number is 200 2324).

Concerns were raised last year that if someone was to slip after snow had been cleared by a member of the public, the person who cleared the snow could be liable for damages. The council have advised that is not the case, as anyone clearing snow is attempting to make the area safer for neighbours.

The Council said that teachers have achieved an 80% attendance rate, and in the schools that have opened between 30% and 60% of pupils have made it into school.

Health and Care Services

There is no transport to any Council-owned or voluntary day centres for the rest of the week due to the risk it may pose to service users. However, staff are reporting to work and are contacting all service users and families. Staff will be assessing whether vulnerable adults and older people require any additional assistance and are taking appropriate action.

All social work centres, and home care and re-ablement staff are reprioritising case loads to ensure emergency cases are covered such as meals and personal care.

Anyone who is concerned about someone who they feel should be getting assistance can contact the social care direct team at the Council on 0131 200 2324, and staff there will arrange appropriate follow up. In the evenings and weekend contact can be made with the out of hours service at 0800 731 6969.

A local 4 x 4 charity (Lothian 4x4 Response) are providing two vehicles with drivers to take home care staff to visit vulnerable and older people including getting any shopping needed.

More Edinburgh weather updates