Chaos and fun in equal measure for district

Chaos and fun in equal measure for district

7 March 2018

WINTRY conditions across the district caused havoc for motorists and pedestrians last week as the Beast from the East dumped tonnes of snow across a wide area.

Schools and businesses were forced to close, hospital appointments, bin collections and bus services were cancelled and people were warned by weather forecasters to stay indoors as one of the heaviest snowfalls for years paralysed large areas.

Drivers struggled for control of their vehicles in heavy snow with Downpatrick, Saintfield, Ballynahinch, The Spa, Castlewellan, Kilcoo and Leitrim and Carryduff some of the worst affected areas. Many roads were treacherous and simply impassable, but there were no reports of major power failures as a result of the challenging weather conditions.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council closed all of its facilities, including its leisure and community centres and household recycling centres in Downpatrick, Castlewellan and Ballynahinch. In addition, the local authority’s Downshire Civic Centre also closed early last Thursday as many staff struggled to report for work.

People across the district woke up to a winter wonderland last Thursday morning and while children made the most of the snowy conditions, adults who struggled to get to work did not share their enthusiasm.

Members of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team ferried staff to Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital, while many carers who provide crucial home help services abandoned their cars and made their way on foot to people’s homes.

District nurses also refused to let the weather get the better of them and maintained the service they provide to the elderly, those who are housebound and people suffering from a terminal illness.

The district’s community spirit came to the fore as the weather played havoc with many aspects of daily life as the heavy snow caused major disruption.

The South Eastern Trust said its staff “went above and beyond” to ensure the most vulnerable in the community were cared for despite the treacherous conditions.

Community and hospital teams battled through snow on foot or with the help from the organisation’s transport department.

District nurses Briege Magee and Terese McMullan travelled by tractor to ensure their patients received the treatment and care they required. 

Both nurses were unable to drive their cars due to the heavy snow, but Terese’s husband, John, who had just purchased a brand new tractor earlier in the week, gave up work to ensure they were transported to their house calls across Downpatrick. Patients were highly appreciative of the nurses’ dedication.

Nicki Patterson, the health trust’s Director of Nursing, Older People and Primary Care, said while last week’s weather was challenging for staff, they displayed “extraordinary dedication to ensure minimal disruption to patient care.”

She added: “This is just one example of how our staff have gone above and beyond and how the community have supported us through these adverse weather conditions. A huge thank you to everyone for their hard work and assistance.”

In Downpatrick, South Down MLA Colin McGrath and Cllr John Trainor helped clear snow from the front of a number of properties, including that of one 84 year-old woman who was afraid to leave her home. In addition to clearing a number of paths, the duo also spread gritting salt on a number of others to assist not only residents, but carers visiting clients.

Mr McGrath said the treacherous conditions brought out the best in people and praised everyone who had helped clear snow and ensure nurses were able to get to patients.

He added: “People looked out for each other and that is always heartwarming to see, while the various statutory agencies responded as best they could in difficult and challenging weather conditions. 

“Thanks to all carers and essential service staff who went the extra mile to help people and to residents who helped from popping in to see people to those that used their 4x4 vehicles to help others.”

Rowallane councillor Billy Walker also praised carers, explaining he seen many walking to the homes of elderly residents as it was impossible to travel by car.

He added: “These people are the unsung heroes, quietly going about their jobs to ensure the elderly and vulnerable who rely heavily upon them are not let down. People like this are the unsung heroes who work in the community, always putting others first.”