Winter is coming
A brief guide to getting through winter in challenging times
With a loose plan of four themed pieces each month, it was exciting to launch during a month with five Mondays! So this is a bonus long read for you to share with all your friends. Given the information contained within this post, we’ve also taken down the paywall and made it available to everyone.
Now I know many of you come here for hot takes and deep insight, but this week - as the title suggests - we are going to focus on cold takes. It will soon be winter, and it gets cold at winter. There you go Ed, watch the subscribers roll in with that kind of insight.
The met office has a Cold Weather Health Watch which comprises five levels of response based on cold weather thresholds and operates in England from 1 Nov to 31 March every year. We are currently at the bottom of the scale, presumably because it isn’t even November yet.
If you have five levels, level 0 doesn’t sound good. So I’m hoping it’s not a countdown, but rather an elevator, and we are in the basement. The basement of weather planning. There’s the title for my novel at least.
So let’s take a look at what planning is in place in Medway. What are warm banks? What support is in place for the homeless, other than installing uncomfortable park benches? And how you (yes, even you) could become a snow warden.
It’s important to look after yourself, especially during winter, as cold weather can be bad for your health. So keep warm and healthy, before you resort to sleeping inside a Tauntaun.
Long-range weather forecasts show that temperatures will become much colder, having already dropped to single figures in some parts of southern England during October. Forecaster Nick Finns wrote that the jet stream appears to be diverting further south for November through January, meaning we will be exposed to cold polar air.
With many concerned that we may have a General Election, and then a Labour Government, which would ruin the economy, let’s start by looking at ‘warm banks’
As reported on KentOnline, the Diocese of Rochester was approaching churches to be used as potential sites for warm banks this winter. Surely a reassuring sign that things haven’t got that bad is confirmation that Medway Council does not have plans to set up warm banks in any of their buildings. However, in a statement to this very newsletter, they did tell us:
The council’s 15 libraries and community hubs offer warm and inviting facilities where residents can access a wide range of council services. Libraries and community hubs can support residents with the rise in the cost of living by providing a range of free books, computers with free use of the internet and free Wi-Fi alongside a whole range of free digital resources and events for residents of all ages. Medway’s libraries and community hubs also signpost residents to other council services and community groups which may be able to provide support.
And if you can get to one, Medway also has four Children and Family Hubs across Medway.
(Children and Family Hubs) offer families with children warm and inviting places to go and take part in drop-in fun activity sessions including baby groups and stay and play sessions. The hubs also offer antenatal classes and baby clinics and can signpost residents to other support that is available. For more information, visit: medway.gov.uk/familyhubs
You can also download Medway Council’s keep warm and well booklet for more advice on how to keep out of the cold this winter.
Encouragingly, Medway Council also has a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) when nighttime temperatures are predicted to be freezing or below. This provides emergency accommodation for people with nowhere to sleep that night.
Medway’s Homelessness Forum includes the police, health services, housing providers, local charities and support workers, and informs as many rough sleepers as they can that accommodation is available to them during periods of severe weather. Kingsley House in Gillingham will assess the individual’s circumstances and manage the arrangements for booking emergency accommodation.
The good news, for those concerned that people who should just get a job are getting free room and board, is that once the minimum temperature is predicted to have risen above zero degrees celsius, and any significant snow or ice has melted, emergency accommodation will no longer be provided.
You can tell Medway Council about a rough sleeper here, which will hopefully result in some support being offered, even when it isn’t freezing, but that might be too much to ask.
Medway Council’s Winter Weather Plan ensures that all primary routes in Medway are gritted to help prevent ice from forming. So if you don’t get gritted where you live, congratulations! You are on a secondary maybe even tertiary route, and you won’t have access to the eight salting vehicles spreading 5,000 tonnes of salt.
Medway Council determines if main roads need to be gritted based on forecasts from MetDesk, which are specifically compiled for Kent’s roads. Aiming to grit primary routes before snow falls or ice forms, it takes a maximum of two hours to grit all of the primary routes. Under emergency conditions, the vehicles can be mobilised within one hour depending on the unpredictability of the weather.
The only thing worse than being homeless and freezing during winter is being stuck at home on a non-primary road during school closures. Now whilst true that back in our day schools didn’t have heating, and we’d walk across fields 5ft high with snow, today’s modern snowflakes seemingly can’t handle snowflakes. For the latest information on school closures, check your school's website. BBC Radio Kent will no longer be providing a list of school closures on their website during severe weather conditions, which raises the valid question of why are even paying our licence fee.
Recent winters have shown it’s rare to actually get prolonged snow in Medway. For reasons entirely unrelated to non-existent man-made climate change. Localised flooding may well be an issue for some of you, and you should see a doctor or medical professional about it.
Surface water flooding, when the ground becomes soaked and is not able to deal with the amount of rainwater, should be reported by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report a blocked drain and be sure to tweet when you have done so. For the paid subscribers amongst you, with your private drains, Medway Council wants to make it clear it is your responsibility to report private drain flooding to Southern Water, who should fix it for free.
Should the mighty River Medway become too mighty due to not being able to contain the amount of water draining into it, stand well back and pray to the gods - Medway Council’s website offers no suggestions.
Do you wanna
build become a snow man warden?
Well, Medway Council needs you!
Voluntary Snow Wardens play a vital role in clearing snow from footways in residential areas during the winter. Volunteers will be allocated a 25kg bag of road salt, a hand spreader, a snow shovel, a pair of gloves, and most enticingly, a high-vis vest.
During wintry conditions, volunteers get to choose a section of footway, which they will be asked to clear and treat. They may not be able to clear and treat these sections on every occasion but their help is appreciated and local residents are expected to stand outside and clap at the first sight of snow.
Contact us if you apply and keep us up to date with your Snow Warden ‘journey’.
Not unique to winter, but increasingly important with rising fuel costs, Medway Council are encouraging residents to find out if they’re eligible for the Green Homes Grant. A new initiative to help keep homes warm whilst lowering carbon emissions and saving money on fuel bills. The scheme offers a wide range of insulation measures and renewable heating technologies, which are designed to reduce the impact of heating homes on the environment.
Cllr Howard Doe, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services, said:
“The Green Home Grants scheme is a great way to help residents stay comfortable and warm at home whilst saving money and helping the environment. We are working hard to achieve net zero carbon across Medway by 2050 and this project supports our ongoing climate change work. I would encourage residents, including low-income households, to find out more about the scheme.”
Medway Council also manages the Household Support Fund, funded by the government for those most in need of support with the cost of living crisis, aka poverty. The fund can be used for food and home essentials, as well as housing, energy and water costs, but not mortgages.
No cash payments are made, other than when they are. Mostly, vouchers are awarded for supermarkets, energy and further referrals. A single person can get a food voucher for £50, whilst a household of four will receive vouchers equating to £35 per person.
You can apply for support from the Household Support Fund, but be aware that the scheme closes on 31 March or earlier if the entire budget is spent. Medway’s allocation is around £2.2m. So far, around £270,000 has been spent, which includes £180,000 on providing free school meals vouchers over the half term. Whilst Medway Council does expect to have spent their allocation by the end of March, they have ring-fenced funding for free school meal vouchers.
And finally, as cold winter weather inevitably leads to sickness, it is important to recognise that some symptoms of the flu are similar to covid symptoms. This is what to look out for:
sneezing or runny nose - likely flu
loss of taste - likely covid
loss of smell - likely covid
new persistent cough - could be either
fever - could be either
consistent 5G signal – definitely covid
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Steven Keevil is a former educator and frozen food data analyst. He is currently recuperating from being unemployed. He was a co-founder of The Political Medway, and still manages to watch hundreds of films a year. He highly recommends Undergods.
Steven listened to no music whilst writing this, but recommends the following books that he has finished recently: Your Fathers, Where Are They? by Dave Eggers, Liars Poker by Micheal Lewis, and Batman and Robin & Howard by Jeff Brown
Local Authority is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.