Although Somerset escaped the blizzards from the East at the start of last week, we were nailed by the storm front coming up from the South for the weekend. Thursday morning, a light but relentless snow began to drift around the lanes. By early afternoon, there was a state of emergency declared in the county and most roads were impassable as the winds rose and the snow piled high.
The starlings huddled in their bare tree like frozen clumps of leaf, then were obscured from view entirely as dark came early. I can’t imagine how they made it back to their reedy homes in the marshlands. Late in the night, a freezing rain fell, which covered the fluffy snowdrifts with a layer of sharp-edged ice. This weather was out to get you.
Our parish was quite lightly affected – we have no main roads or other major transport links to look after. The few vehicles that braved our lane were in the service of utility maintenance. Apart from some low gas pressure, our supplies remained intact. Many other areas lost power or water.
The tractor cleared our lane quite early on Friday, but the main road was barely functional. My intrepid young lodgers walked the four miles into Glastonbury town, where the situation was about the same. The tyre tracks were in danger of freezing into black ice at any point; temperatures took a sharp dive after sunset.
The River Brue was frozen.
School was most definitely out!
Everything seemed to just freeze in place for the day on Friday; there was a major incident declared for the county. People dealt well with not going out, allowing service providers and those who’d been caught away from home priority in using the roads.
There wasn’t any point in making strenuous efforts to clear the snow away. There’s nearly twelve hours of sunlight a day at this time of year. Once the maverick weather had blown over, natural solar power would do the trick, and so it proved on Saturday. The kids had hardly time to borrow a sledge before the snow was all gone!
It’s been seven years since our corner of the Shire had anything more than a light dusting of snow. On Sunday, I was reminded of one of the reasons I wrote the Resilience Handbook.
This is a typical supermarket in Mid-Somerset, two days after the emergency was over. There’s no fresh food at all (except a tray of celeriac, which no-one knows how to cook). Will this remind Glastonbury Town Council that allotments have their uses after all? This snowfall occurred in March, on the edge of Spring. It could have been a whole different story if it was in December.
“Local emergency responders will always have to prioritise those in greatest need during an emergency, focusing their efforts where life is in danger. There will be times when individuals and communities are affected by an emergency but are not in any immediate danger and will have to look after themselves and each other for a period until any necessary external assistance can be provided.”
from the Strategic National Framework on Community Resilience (Cabinet Office March 2011)
Back to normal next week with a bit of luck….the seed swap and the freecycle day were both cancelled, and I’ve missed the potato days now. Luckily I can pay a visit to the organisers, at the Walled Garden in nearby East Pennard to see what exotic varieties they have left!