Western Divisional Roads Manager Pat Doherty today warned motorists to take extra care while driving, as winter approaches.
The Divisional Roads Manager was speaking as he announced the start of Roads Service's annual Winter Service operation.
Mr Doherty said: "Every night from now until the middle of April, we will have 70 staff on standby to salt main roads, helping drivers to cope with wintry conditions. Salt barns and stockpiles have been filled to maximum capacity in Western Division which encompasses the council areas of Dungannon, Cookstown, Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Omagh, and Strabane.
"When ice or snow is forecast, we have 34 gritters available which can salt the main network in just over three hours, a massive logistical exercise that costs around �23,000 each time it takes place.
"During periods of prolonged snow, all gritters will be fitted with snow ploughs and efforts directed to clearing snow from motorways and the trunk roads, before moving to other main roads and the busiest urban link roads.
"The operation will continue until all roads are cleared, but this may take some time, even with all resources deployed. In very deep snow, Roads Service will use its snow blowers, the latest of which can shift 1,600 tonnes of snow an hour."
Mr Doherty said arrangements are also in place to enlist the help of contractors, including farmers, to clear blocked roads and that Roads Service had introduced enhanced communication arrangements and priority secondary salting to rural schools that are most affected by wintery weather conditions.
In relation to the gritting of main footpaths in council areas, Mr Doherty said: "I am very pleased with the progress made in this area with almost all councils now working with Roads Service to deliver this service."
"Roads Service will continue to provide salt bins and grit piles at strategic locations, for use on a self help basis to help prevent the formation of snow and ice on pavements and untreated roads - and will be continually replenishing these during the winter."
Roads Service will try to ensure that motorists are kept fully up to date with road conditions at this time of year. Information on salting activities is relayed electronically to the media to ensure the latest news on road conditions is available to motorists. This information is also relayed to the Roads Service public facing web site http://www.trafficwatchni.com/sections/default.asp?secid=8 to ensure the public are kept up to date with winter service operations.
"Even with the most careful and thorough planning, the use of special Met. Office forecasts and the latest ice prediction technology, Winter Service is really a battle against the elements and ice-free roads cannot be guaranteed. Motorists have to play their part by taking extra care during wintry conditions. The best advice is in the Highway Code - drive with care even if roads have been salted, be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances and take care when overtaking gritters," added Mr Doherty.
"The public should also prepare for this annual winter battle with the elements and commercial property owners in particular should make sure that they have adequate supplies of salt in place to ensure the safety of employees and visitors,'' he added.
The Roads Service winter service leaflet 'Keeping Traffic on the Move During Winter' is available by calling 028 9054 0540 or from the website at: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/ws-web-leaflet-march-2012.pdf To view a full range of winter help and advice services you can log onto: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/winter-help-and-advice