We have a fleet of 16 gritters equipped with snow ploughs and 3 snow blowers. In the hills to the east, local farmers help clear the roads when snow is heavy and prolonged.
When there is a risk of ice (usually this is where the temperature is forecast to fall below 1 degree centigrade), we aim to grit roads before ice forms.
When snow is forecast we aim to grit main roads and routes to accident and emergency hospitals before the snow falls.
After snow has fallen, we work to clear the roads. We start with main roads and designated routes to accident and emergency hospitals, then major commuter routes, busy bus routes and routes to secondary schools. We may have to return to these routes even after starting to clear other roads if they start to freeze again or if new snow falls.
To assess the likelihood of snow or ice and decide when to grit, we use a computerised system that takes road surface temperatures and other information from sensor sites around Cheshire East, plus Met Office weather forecasts.
It is never safe to assume a road is free from ice, because:
- we only grit the roads included in our winter treatment network, so many roads are never gritted
- sometimes ice forms even if it was not forecast
- when the forecast changes at short notice, we may not have time to cover all the roads on our gritting routes (it takes 4 hours to get round them all)
- rain can wash salt away (so we don't grit when it is raining)
- in the evenings, we normally grit after the rush hour - if rain turns to snow during the rush hour, we may not be able to treat roads because of the traffic
- even salt does not stop ice forming when the temperature is below -8 degrees centigrade
- salt does not instantly remove snow or ice - the action of traffic is essential to break down the salt granules to form a saline solution which lowers the freezing point of water
For winter driving advice, see Cheshire Fire Service winter road safety tips.
Gritting and clearing pavements
We treat pavements only when snow or ice is already present and is likely to stay for some time and where we have resources available after treating roads. We give priority to busy pedestrian areas and to pavements where the gradient is steeper than 10%.
If your road is not located on a gritting route, there may be a salt bin nearby.
Salt bins and bags
We put salt bins in residential areas near to shopping areas, part way up hills with a gradient steeper than 10%, and in other areas where there is a need. You can use the salt in the bins on public roads and pavements. Don't take it for your own property because if there is not enough salt for public roads and pavements then people could get hurt.
We normally stock the bins once each winter.
To tell us a bin is empty or ask if we can provide a bin, you can report it online.
What you can do to clear paths
For advice on what you can do to clear paths, driveways and the pavement outside your property, see the Met Office Snow Code. There is no law stopping you from clearing pavements. It is unlikely you would be legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully.