Monmouthshire was subjected to severe weather early on St David’s Day as Storm Emma’s high winds and heavy snow gathered momentum, causing difficulties across the county.  The increasing severity was emphasised when, just after 8am, the Met Office announced that it was upgrading its amber warning for snow and wind to a red warning for much of the county from 3pm.

The council has prioritised the care of the elderly and vulnerable, the treatment of main road surfaces and the safety of the community while making every effort to keep services running as normally as possible.  Inevitably, though, the weather took its toll.

Many schools had already announced their closure on Wednesday evening but by 10am the council advised all headteachers and governors to make arrangements to close as soon as practically possible following the deteriorating forecast.  In addition, it was announced that all of Monmouthshire’s schools would be closed on Friday, 2nd March.

The council’s community meals team delivered food to all service users who required it and made contingency plans for tomorrow.  If staff are unable to deliver on Friday because of worsening conditions, service users will be contacted by phone and if they need assistance they will be prioritised.  The community meals service has the use of a number of four-wheel drive vehicles while the bad weather persists.

Meanwhile, care at home teams have been working around the county with support from four-wheel drive vehicles and drivers to cover the most necessary calls.  All other people have been contacted by telephone and plans are in place for this evening and tomorrow.  The council’s day centres have been closed today and will also close tomorrow but residential services are running as normal with preparations to ensure staffing is maintained during the most adverse weather conditions.

The council’s gritting teams continuously treated primary routes and ploughed as necessary though highways officers have stressed that people should only travel if their journeys were absolutely necessary.  Councillor Bryan Jones, the council’s cabinet member for county operations said: “We’re in the midst of severe conditions with a red warning in place.  Do not drive unless you absolutely have to and leave the roads clear for the emergency services and essential workers.”

Household waste and recycling centres closed at 3pm today though it is hoped that the Llanfoist and Five Lanes premises will be open tomorrow.  Residents are advised to check the council’s website after 9.30am.  The sites at Usk and Mitchel Troy will be closed all day on Friday to ensure the safety of residents and staff.

Refuse and recycling crews completed as many rounds as possible but some minor roads proved too dangerous to access. The council will prioritise the collection of refuse while requesting the community to store recycling, food and garden waste until the next collection.  Staff unable to collect waste on Friday will join colleagues in grounds maintenance and highways to clear snow and ensure access to essential services.

Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth leisure centres were closed to the public by noon and a decision will be made to open on Friday – residents should log on to the council’s website or telephone to check if centres are open.  The county’s museums were also closed today and will stay closed tomorrow as will the council’s community hubs.  The adverse weather also claimed the markets scheduled to be held in Abergavenny and Monmouth tomorrow.  A decision will be made regarding Saturday’s markets and publicised on the council’s social media channels.

The council’s main offices in Usk and Magor also opened this morning but closed as the weather deteriorated.  They will remain closed tomorrow.  Thanks to the council’s agile working policy, many staff unable to travel to their normal workplace are able to log in anywhere with wi-fi, including their homes, using their laptops  They are contactable by telephone, email and various messaging services like Skype and consequently, severe weather doesn’t impact particularly on the service provided by these employees.  For instance, the council’s contact centre staff are working remotely and operated as usual from 9am to 5pm and will be running from 9am to 4.30pm tomorrow.  Residents can ring the contact centre on 01633 644644.

Council leader Peter Fox said: “It’s at times like this that everyone turns to their local council.  Our staff have worked constantly to operate many of our key services today and continue to provide support to the most vulnerable people in the county.  I am so proud of what we have done to support the communities we serve today and I know that our staff will continue to work throughout the weekend doing their utmost to keep our strategic routes open, our vulnerable people safe and our county open for business.”