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Friday, 2 March 2018

Ice giants and snow trolls

Another intermission post whilst we wait for Mrs May, so those of you who want a choc ice or a smoke please slink away now. 

Ice giants
It's a short filler piece at the end of the news here - how Britain can't cope with 5cm of snow. Well, to a point, Lord Copper. Here we can expect snow up to 2m deep in winter, though it's not been over 60cm since I've lived here, and dawn temperatures of -20­­° are not unusual. We all cope and things carry on as normal; the postman ploughs his little van through snowbanks, the refuse vehicle wears snowchains and folk always wear hats and coats inside the car. Plus we have winter tyres and anyone owning a decent tractor or loading shovel can bid to be a snow clearance contractor. The trains don't miss a beat and most of the time the schools stay open. 

So wearily I have to explain for the fifth time that ice and snow events are rare enough in the UK not to maintain a standing provision for them - it's easier to take a minor economic hit from snow disruption every ten years than pay for kit and provision that will be redundant most winters. Austrians aren't ice giants - in fact they're less cold tolerant than most Brits, the houses and pubs here being without exception grossly overheated and actually uncomfortable for an Englishman used to Anglian country houses maintained at an equable 16° in winter except for the spaces immediately in front of the open fireplaces. 

Only the main road through the valley here is salted - all the rest of the steep little single lane ways up the sides are gritted. Salt only works to -15°, and the grit is surprisingly effective once cemented into the ice, a bit like driving on worn sandpaper. 


Snow trolls

In addition to the comments to previous posts I've now had two emails asking me to exclude a commentator whom many contributors find disruptive. I have to say he doesn't upset me and I'm sometimes quite grateful for a sharp puncturing of any hubristic posturing into which I stray. He was also quick to defend Mr Spalton's undoubted very high standards of expertise, erudition and wisdom when this was challenged. I'm also dyed to the core in my commitment to free speech and against censorship, and have warned previously against a real danger of social media becoming an echo chamber, so I embrace dissent as healthy.

On the other hand I am deeply conscious of the offence taken by several loyal and long standing readers, and aware that the person concerned quite naturally can't resist so easily provoking a reaction from many. 

So for now a plea, please, to not get either entrenched or go into full combat mode on this.

21 comments:

Hector Drummond, Vile Novelist said...

The main problem in the UK is that whenever it snows a lot of schools like to cancel the school day in the morning, and that screws up everything as then loads of people have to take the day off work to look after their kids, as there's not enough notice to arrange any childcare, and so the country grinds to a halt.

Ed P said...

Due to the infrequent snowfalls, especially in the south, there are many younger drivers trying to cope with icy conditions for the first time. Quite a few do not scrape the snow off their cars (which is now an offense - 3 points) or slow down, leave longer gaps between vehicles, avoid having to brake sharply, etc. So cautious and experienced drivers are endangered by these ignoramuses.

Dave_G said...


The "Oh noes..!" from the media don't help either. If they'd just shut up whining and treating it as a 'catastrophic event' then maybe people would just, as they used to, shrug their shoulders and get on with it.

The media (as a whole) are responsible for too many ill's in our lives.

jack ketch said...

So cautious and experienced drivers are endangered by these ignoramuses. Ed-P

You forgot to mention those drivers (of whatever age) who think heavy snow falls (or fog for that matter) require the use of full beams. Number of times I have returned home with arc-eye...

Budgie said...

Can I point out that the coefficient of friction is the same whether there is 2 inches of snow, or 8" as round here, or 6ft? Also where I live we get some snow more often than not and, to be fair, the highways authorities do just cope, sometimes using farm tractors if they're snowed under (!). And of course snow is normally just irregular and sparse enough of an occurrence that snow clearance is very tempting for local authorities to cut in favour of a token windmill, say.

Peter Whale said...

Snow on the Isle of Wight is not rare but a dusting every couple of years.Today it is the thin sheet of hard ice under the dusting of snow that is causing the problem. Many businesses are closed people are falling over as any gradient is a major problem.
As for the provocateur I quite like the entertainment, come Sunday with the vote in Italy, Brexit could become the second division game.

Anonymous said...

I have visited Finland in the winter on a couple of occasions, and have to say that the Finns really do drive normally in the snow - because it is for them normal. For Brits, especially in the SE, it is very abnormal. I understand that we can't use (or even obtain) studded tyres, and you would be mad trying to drive on a motorway with snow chains. Even specifically winter tyres will be out of date by the next time the snow is as bad, and require an extra set of wheels because they will be used infrequently, and you can't be going back and forth to the tyre fitters.

The answer it seems is to work from home a few days every other year. Saves your no claims bonus fairly effectively.

Gardener Fisher said...

This is the first heavy snow since I retired and I am loving it. No traffic noise, total quiet it’s lovely. We cancelled a trip to see relatives and therefore did not get stuck in the snow. Power is on, internet works, fridge is full as is the wood burner.

If you have to go out, have children dumped on you by the state etc it is different but I intend to enjoy this. I wonder if the reason schools did not close when I was a boy is that people, staff and pupils all lived closer to the school, most walked in or took the bus. As a border I never had a day off for snow but I do not recall any of the day boys ever missing school because of snow.

I have a hunch that Brexit will be a long process, May will obtain a terrible deal, we will endure it for years and they people’s patience will snap and phase two, the clean break will occur. I do like the fact that Junker has appointed a pantomime villain to be head honcho. A German euro fanatic whose grandfather I think did time for war crimes, if the press reports are correct. So lucky that a rational charmer was not appointed. In fact Selmyr could be so fanatically pro eu that we have to walk out, what a blissful thought. Probably having too much anti freeze has made me see the world through rose tinted specs.

Raedwald said...

Anon 11.26 - garages here charge about €80 a time for the twice yearly changeover and it's a nice little earner. But I take your point about the longevity of winter tyres - which for those who don't know are made of a more plastic and far shorter lived rubber and have a use-by date moulded on them, irrespective of wear.

jack ketch said...

"garages here charge about €80 a time for the twice yearly changeover"

In Germany it was, the last time I checked, an 'almost law' (ie insurers wouldn't pay out if you your wreck was found to be shod with summer tyres), hell it might now be a real law that you have to use winter or MS tyres.

Ravenscar. said...

What would worry me far more is that, if you stopped posting Radders.

imho, the posters on here are pretty knowledgeable and I like that, whether they be for or agin.

Gardener Fisher said...

This is the first heavy snow since I retired and I am loving it. No traffic noise, total quiet it’s lovely. We cancelled a trip to see relatives and therefore did not get stuck in the snow. Power is on, internet works, fridge is full as is the wood burner.

If you have to go out, have children dumped on you by the state etc it is different but I intend to enjoy this. I wonder if the reason schools did not close when I was a boy is that people, staff and pupils all lived closer to the school, most walked in or took the bus. As a border I never had a day off for snow but I do not recall any of the day boys ever missing school because of snow.

I have a hunch that Brexit will be a long process, May will obtain a terrible deal, we will endure it for years and they people’s patience will snap and phase two, the clean break will occur. I do like the fact that Junker has appointed a pantomime villain to be head honcho. A German euro fanatic whose grandfather I think did time for war crimes, if the press reports are correct. So lucky that a rational charmer was not appointed. In fact Selmyr could be so fanatically pro eu that we have to walk out, what a blissful thought. Probably having too much anti freeze has made me see the world through rose tinted specs.

Rossa said...

Thanks for the tip about use by dates on winter tyres. I’ll have to check mine when the snow clears enough here. I have a set of Kumhos (make winter rally tyres) that work best when temps average below +7c. Use them for 3-4 months every year. On a rear wheel drive car they are a god send and I’ve had no trouble with my ‘back end’ the last two winters. Excellent grip which is great when driving home across the moor roads in the early hours after a late shift. And not many idiots on the roads at 3am. Cost me £24 twice a year to swop them and my tyre man keeps my other set in his loft for free.

Cull The Badgers said...

A major factor in addition here is the volume of traffic and the narrowness of most roads which have never been kept up with the increased volume nor increased size of vehicles.It just takes one to get stuck on hill say and there is an almost immediate back-up. Years ago you could drift back down the slope for a while and have another run at it, but not now.

Anonymous said...

So it seems that people do go back and forth to tyre fitters, which I suppose is sensible if you know that you are going to have to deal with snow. Here in SE England, it started on Wednesday but not so bad until late in the day that I couldn't use the car. That means only 2 weekdays when I couldn't go out in the car. This weekend the rain should see the snow off - gone by Sunday as far as driving is concerned. So we are talking 2 or 3 days. The last time it was anything like this was 6 years ago.

Most of the tyre services within several miles of where I live don't even stock specifically winter tyres. Don't forget that you can't have a winter 'get you home' tyre, so you may need an extra rim. Even changing tyres over represents an investment of £700 in tyres and £200 for an alloy for a 10 year old car - just so I can drive for 2 or 3 days? Keeping a set of 5 that I could change myself would be getting on for £2k investment if I include 5 rims, and all for something that I might use once in 5 or 6 years? And when you get on the road, you might be stuck with other road users who can't move, even if you can.

Definitely, I'm staying home and watching the snow every time it's like this!

Man with a Polish Wife said...

I have second generation all season tyres for driving to the Alps, etc. This is the first snow I have driven on since fitting them three years ago, they are also excellent for wet weather and mud, etc.

I bought Nokian tyres direct from Germany at the same price as 'normal' tyres, and they have excellent rolling resistance and sound quality too. There is no use by date on them, although you can't use them in snow once the tread depth is below 3mm. I have used them in the summer on Autobahns at unlimited speed with temperatures in the 30s, and I can assure you that they do not melt. There has been a revolution in tyre performance, and by luck I was there at the start.

Cascadian said...

The best tyres in the world are no good if your driving habits don't change when it snows. The frictional co-efficent of rubber on concrete or tarmac is way higher than rubber on snow, even higher with rubber/ice, so you need much further to come to a halt, adjust the distance between vehicles to suit. It is also important to avoid jamming on your brakes and losing steering control, shift down through your gears then brake.

I live in a climate very similar to south England, but we get a bit more snow, generally every other year. Everytime it snows it is a revelation to most drivers, especially 4x4 owners who believe they are invincible. Fact- most vehicles in the ditches have 4x4. Automatic transmissions and improper brake use also contribute to a fair amount of accidents.

I think what most foreigners find so amusing about snow in yUK is the instant panic, whilst I understand Raedwalds argument that the investment by local authorities for snow clearing equipment is probably unworthwhile, that same argument should surely not extend to the major highways, railways and airports. Other countries seem to manage, why is yUK so terribly served?

Once again I salute Raedwalds toleration of divergent opinions, it is what makes coming here worthwhile.

Rossa said...

Anon said “Don't forget that you can't have a winter 'get you home' tyre, so you may need an extra rim. Even changing tyres over represents an investment of £700 in tyres and £200 for an alloy for a 10 year old car - just so I can drive for 2 or 3 days? Keeping a set of 5 that I could change myself would be getting on for £2k investment if I include 5 rims, and all for something that I might use once in 5 or 6 years?”

I am a professional driver working as a private chauffeur. My car is also 10 years old, a 5 series BMW. I live in a Yorkshire village where access is via two hills and one steep sloped road. Have to be able to get out when client has booked me. 4 Kumhos were 500k. Don’t have a spare, even though there’s a well in the boot. But then I’m on run flats. Have to admit I also have 200 litres of bark clippings at the back of the boot over the rear axle. Works for me. Like Cascadian, I have a manual gearbox which is a lot easier as I can use that to do ‘engine’ braking rather than use the brake pedal. Take my foot off the brake and car slows down, unlike autos that tend to ‘run on’.

My clients usually have big automatics which are more skittish in snow than my old bus, even those with 4WD or AWD and ice/snow drive option. They also tend to live in the country where roads don’t get gritted or cleared. Have had a couple of scary moments on narrow single road tracks.

There is an all weather tyre, think it is a Michelin, used by all the emergency services, police, fire brigades and ambulances. No need to change them. Weren’t available in my tyre size otherwise I would have got them. I can run on the winter tyres in ‘warmer’ weather but the ride is harsher. Though to be honest, at speed on a motorway it’s not that noticeable.

djc said...

Winter tyres are not just for rare snow days, they are also an advantage in rain, ice, and mud, all more frequent than snow in s. England. Fit winter tyres in November, summer tyres in March (ok this year April). The winter tyres will wear more than summer tyres, they are softer, that plus a deeper tread pattern is why they grip. But if you only use the half the year, and summer tyres the other half both will last twice as long. Tyres have a date of manufacture on them not a 'best before' date. Tyres on long-term parked vehicle like caravans do rot from being exposed and under load, a rare problem with tyres that regularly roll along.
In addition to Winter tyres there are also 'All Season' tyres: a compromise between Winter and summer tyres. Most are based on Winter designs but Michelin Cross Climate take the opposite tack of of starting from a summer design. They are M+S (mud & snow) rated and so acceptable in those places where 'winter' tyres are mandatory for some months of the year.

mongoose said...

Back in the day, we had a spare set of studded tyres for my pop's car - BMW 5-something, RWD. Big FU trolley-jack in the garage and he'd have us change the set in minutes. Of course, he was one of those gentleman amateur rally drivers that we used to have when cars were cars and not £400k computers and so he had the kit and the room. I used to drive us into and back from school every day while learning, and whatever weather came along was to be learned from.

BTW there are still no fucking trains on the GWR.

Anonymous said...

So my reply to Rossa didn't make it? SO what units are the 500k in? If I lived in Yorkshire and drove for a living I'd go the whole hog. Ditto in the mountains. Here in the south we haven't had weather like this since Dec 2009 - 8 years ago. The simplest answer is to stay home. The snow was gone by midday Saturday, and it wasn't a problem until Wednesday night - plus I get more done on a laptop with no distractions than wasting hours on a ommute.