Arthur's Seat Avalanche Warning; Pedestrian Warnings

Submitted by edg on Fri, 3 Dec '10 8.50pm

Snowboarders and skiers venturing out to the Pentlands hills and even Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park are being warned of the risk of avalanches.

"There is a real avalanche risk to walkers and skiers in the Pentland Hills, with a lesser risk also facing Arthur's Seat. With up to 2m of snow lying in hollows just now, hill-users must be aware and ensure they know the risks," warned City of Edinburgh Council education specialist and mountaineering instructor Cliff Smith, who runs avalanche awareness courses.

The recent dump of deep powder has been like a bonanza for snowsports enthusiasts, creating a winter playland on our doorsteps. Snowboarders and skiers took the opportunity to carve up the fresh snowfall on Arthur's seat in Holyrood Park earlier this week (see video).

"We're not saying people shouldn't continue to enjoy walking and ski-ing in the Pentlands, but they do need to be aware of the dangers of avalanche, particularly where snow layers are weak," said Smith.

"Our advice is to avoid slopes which are most heavily loaded with snow, since the added weight from walkers or skiers could trigger an avalanche. There's a risk of avalanches even on Arthur's Seat - just a small slide of snow could take a walker off a ledge, so people really do need to keep their wits about them."

He reminded people heading for the hills, to take standard precautionary measures of letting someone know where you're heading and when you expect to be back, dressing appropriately, and checking the weather forecast before setting off.

The Met Office's latest severe weather warning for Edinburgh and Lothians (valid until noon 4 December) states: "Rain, sleet and snow showers will fall on frozen ground this evening, overnight and on Saturday morning. This will lead to widespread ice forming on untreated surfaces and result in dangerous driving conditions."

Frozen ponds risk

Edinburgh parks staff are also flagging up the serious safety risk posed if people venture on to seemingly frozen ponds, reservoirs and canals, where the ice is of variable thickness and can be extremely unstable. (See "What you should do if somone falls through the ice").

Councillor Robert Aldridge, Environment Leader, said: "As the sub-zero temperatures and severe wintry conditions persist, it's vital that people continue to take extreme care when going about their business, as well as looking out for the most vulnerable in our communities. Together with our partners, Lothian and Borders Police, we are providing as much advice as we can on how people can keep themselves and their properties safe."

Snow overhang warning

In these conditions, even walking in the street carries a Council health warning. With temperatures plummeting to minus 14C last night, and remaining below freezing, there's the obvious danger of black ice and frozen snow which is making roads and footpaths treacherous.

Council property experts are also warning of the dangers of overhanging snow and ice on buildings.

"Overhanging snow and ice, particularly on cast iron roans, poses a real safety risk both for buildings themselves and for pedestrians walking underneath," said the Council, in a release.

There have been number of emergency cases in the past 24 hours where gutters have come down due to the weight of accumulated snow.

The Council reminded property owners that they have "a legal responsibility to make their properties safe" suggesting they appoint a contractor or work with their neighbours to help remove the snow and/or ice.