Theory of preparedness and snow

I have a theory about what makes a place cope or not with snow in the UK.

Firstly there are two factors, one is actual snow fall and the other is belief that they have snow fall. These are not identical. There are places that have snowfall that don’t believe they have snowfall and there are visa versa places that don’t have snowfall but do have snowfall.

Belief in snow fall is not simply a matter of looking at the statistics, running a model of what chance there is of heavy snow this year and planning accordingly, it is something deeper. It is given the model what sort of precautions you think are necessary. In a place that believes it gets snowfall, they will nearly always take greater precautions against snow than in a place which does not believe it gets snowfall under the same predicted circumstances.

This comes from having watched Sheffield and Manchester cope with snowfalls. Sheffield believes that it snows in Sheffield. It believes that when it snows the city is likely to grind to a halt and it believes therefore that snow needs planning for. Manchester doesn’t. It believes that sheltered by the Pennines, snow is a rare event due to its warmth and therefore it should not make provision.

As a rule snow is heavier in Sheffield than in Manchester. So there is some validity for these beliefs.

However also as a rule, Sheffield has better provision for coping with the snow that does fall than Manchester. It is normally functioning again more quickly and has stocks for dealing with important path ways as conditions ease.

What seems to me is that belief is quantum. There are levels to it. It is not a smooth line. However I don’t think these levels are a simple binary “have snow” “don’t have snow” rather they have levels like “We always get heavy snow”, “Snow is a nuisance most winters”, “If it snows we will need to adapt” “we only need minimal precautions for light snow” and “snow is irrelevant to our planning”.

As actual snowfall is on a continuum. The people who tend to go to the level above rather than the level below in their snow preparations, tend to fair better if it does snow and have extra expense when it doesn’t.

Another thing to note is the belief is communal. The fact is that people in Sheffield talk about snowy winters as if they were the norm. They expect snow, therefore if the council cut back on snow preparations and then there was a snowy winter, it would have a far higher price to pay in Sheffield than in Manchester where people tend to shrug and say “this is exceptional, they could not really have planned for it”.

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