Monmouthshire woke on Friday 2nd March to a thick blanket of snow with Storm Emma’s severe weather continuing to affect the county. Council workers had worked around the clock to ensure major routes were open and elderly and vulnerable residents received care. Even though the red weather alert had given way to yellow, significant amounts of snow were still falling throughout the day accompanied by high winds.
The council’s community meals team continued to work across the county and they were aided by a new recruit – Council Leader Peter Fox – who drove his four-wheel drive vehicle in heavy snow around Usk, Abergavenny and surrounding areas to deliver hot food. Councillor Fox said: “I’ve had an amazing day experiencing the wonderful, essential work of our community meals teams. It’s amazing what a difference a smiley face and warm meal can make to someone’s day; it’s been a real pleasure to help. The snow is still quite thick in places out there so we advise people not to travel unless necessary. Keep warm, make a hot chocolate, enjoy some time at home and please keep an eye on your neighbours.”
Monmouthshire’s care at home teams continued to make visits on foot or with support from four-wheel drive vehicles and drivers to cover priority calls. The service has been very grateful for the welcome offers of the use of four-wheel drive vehicles to transport staff to and from calls and workplaces. All those who didn’t receive a visit have been telephoned to ensure they are safe and well. Contingency plans have been ongoing for the day and tomorrow morning. The council’s day centres remained closed today but residential services are running as normal with managers continuing to ensure staffing is maintained.
Councillor Penny Jones, cabinet member with responsibility for social care and health said: “I’ve been very impressed by Monmouthshire’s community spirit in severe weather with lots of people volunteering to help with transport. I’d also urge people to check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours to see whether they’re keeping warm and have everything they need while temperatures remain low and it’s difficult to get out and about.”
The council’s gritting teams have 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, cabinet member for county operations said: “We’re in the midst of severe conditions so do not drive unless you absolutely have to and leave the roads clear for the emergency services and essential workers.”
Gritting teams are working tirelessly and plan to work 24 hour shifts until Monday afternoon. Snow continues to fall and drift but the county’s primary routes should improve tomorrow when the weather subsides. Twelve gritting lorries and ploughs are operating on the roads assisted by 24 agricultural contractors with blades, blowers and tractors as well as colleagues from the council’s grounds and waste and recycling teams. Over 80 people are participating in road clearance.
The severe weather meant that many council services were closed. Among these were the county’s leisure centres, community hubs, community education classes, household waste and recycling centres and all schools. Waste and recycling collection was suspended as crews were redeployed clearing snow to ensure roads are clear for essential services as well as in town centres. Waste and recycling teams will endeavour to collect refuse from yesterday and today early next week.
It is likely that Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth leisure centres will remain closed to the public tomorrow though this will be subject to review early in the morning. If they are opened some facilities will be unavailable and all swimming lessons in Abergavenny will be cancelled.
Museums will remain closed tomorrow and the county’s markets will be unavailable until Tuesday.
Household waste and recycling centres will be closed on Saturday but it is hoped they will be open the following day. Abergavenny Library will open as usual at 9am on Saturday but all community hubs and Gilwern Library will be closed. The likelihood is that community hubs will open as usual on Monday.
Residents are advised to log on to the council’s website or telephone if appropriate to check which services are operating.
Meanwhile, the council’s contact centre operated as usual from 9am to 4.30pm with assistance from community hub staff. Contact centre workers advised patience due to the high number of calls received.
The council’s social media Facebook and Twitter pages have been very busy during the severe weather disseminating useful information. In addition, residents have submitted lots of pictures with snow scenes and an appeal was made for four-wheel vehicles so that a weekend wedding could take place in an isolated area of the county!