Councils are fully prepared for Storm Barbara

Media release - 22 December 2016

Councils are fully prepared for the possibility of storms, floods, snow, sleet and high winds that could batter the nation this Christmas.

Council staff will be out in force protecting residents and minimising disruption caused by Storm Barbara, which is set to bring winds of up to 80 mph. Forecasters have issued yellow ‘be aware' weather warnings for parts of northern England, from tomorrow (Friday).

To cover the possibility of flooding, awareness campaigns have been launched by councils to highlight the dangers of flash floods, which can wreak havoc across communities in just minutes.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is warning home owners and businesses at risk from flash flooding to be prepared. This means regularly checking forecasts; knowing how to turn off gas, electricity and water; and having a contingency plan for moving essential items upstairs quickly.

If flash flooding hits, people should never try and walk or drive, councils warn. It only takes 15cms of fast-flowing water to knock an adult over and 60cms to sweep away a 4x4 car or small lorry. Flash flooding can lead to an inch of rain falling in just 15 minutes.

The LGA's annual Winter Readiness Survey shows that councils are well prepared for the possibility of plummeting temperatures with a substantial stock of grit.

Councils have stockpiled 1.2 million tonnes of salt to prepare for winter. About half are at the limit of storage capacity. Gritters will be out treating thousands of miles of roads whenever overnight temperatures drop below zero in the coming days.

The survey also shows more than 80 per cent of councils have placed community grit bins for residents to access salt for pavements and side streets and 75 per cent are using state-of-the-art GPS technology on the gritting fleets. Social media will also continue to be an important tool for councils communicating with residents with 97 per cent of councils using Twitter accounts to keep people up-to-date with weather forecasts, road conditions and gritting activity.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Environment spokesman, said:

"Councils are fully prepared to protect residents and minimise disruption caused by Storm Barbara and other potential bad weather such as snow and flooding. Council staff will be out in force clearing roads of any debris and damage.

"They are constantly monitoring up-to-the-minute weather reports to make sure they can stay one step ahead of the weather.

"Council teams are ready to be drafted in to help provide a variety of services to ensure we are looking out for the more vulnerable members of our communities this winter, from carrying out emergency household repairs to delivering hot meals and portable heaters.

"But council staff can't be everywhere. They rely on community-spirited residents to look out for each other. Just a quick knock on the door of an elderly neighbour who's perhaps too proud or unable to ask for help can make all the difference. They may just need an extra blanket getting down from the loft or perhaps they didn't get out to collect their medicine this week. It takes no time to check in but could potentially save lives.

"Local authorities will be constantly updating websites with information on weather, gritting routes, road conditions, school closures and bin collections, and many councils also have Twitter feeds and Facebook pages detailing the latest developments."

Case studies


Council teams have continued with the recent clean up works around the borough, with culvert screens cleared, gullies checked in flood-prone areas and additional road sweeping taking place. Drainage is being checked and cleared where necessary and forestry services are undertaking work to minimise any potential impact of the wind on the borough's trees. 


Hertfordshire County Council is urging residents to prepare for winter by getting any necessary medication and stocking up on essential supplies before the Christmas holidays start


A public flood information centre officially opened in Kirkstall in Leeds to provide information and advice to homeowners and businesses at risk of flooding. 


Council workers are all set for whatever Jack Frost has to throw at them this winter – right down to pre-prepared grab bags for drivers heading out on long gritting runs on the region's roads. 


Met Office/ Storm Barbara


22 December 2016


Matthew Cooper
Senior Media Relations Officer
Local Government Association
Direct line: 0207 664 3007