And it did snow…

Last week I wondered whether it would in fact snow on London last Saturday.  It did: there was a steady fall of heavy snow, and enough snow and slush on the streets to prevent buses from getting to some parts of London at least.  Boris Johnson, who is usually adept at using new media, and should have known better, sent out a tweet that transport was running within London and that shops were open, just around the time that the huge Brent Cross shopping centre in north London closed early for the day.

A lot of news coverage has focused on how much grit and salt is available to treat roads.  But this weekend, there were plenty of roads and pavements which had been covered with generous quantities of grit during the previous week, but still became gritty and slushy over the weekend.  The term ‘wrong kind of snow’ entered the language, in London at least, when it was cited as the reasons for trains failing in another cold winter twenty years ago.  But a New Scientist article from 1994 (online but behind a paywall, so I won’t put in a link) suggested that, despite the unfortunate choice of words, this really was quite a reasonable description of the causes.  As the Inuit know, there are many types of snow, and apparently a particularly powdery consistency of snow, that the train designers didn’t expect to encounter in London, managed to penetrate brake systems and door mechanisms.

So I wonder if something similar happened with gritting the roads in London – at the very least I wonder if there is a mismatch between the kind of snow and the kind of grit or salt which was used.


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