Storm Filomena was historic in every sense. Not only because it buried large areas of the centre of the peninsula under 60 centimetres of snow, but for the effort made by the State, autonomous communities, and municipalities to help those affected by the snowfall and bring back to normality to very wide areas of the national geography.

As with every major incident on the roads, there are lessons to learn, and Filomena was no exception. These are seven lessons that Filomena and her snowfall have taught the DGT.

1: LEFT LANE: FOR EMERGENCIES

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One lesson from Storm Filomena and its historic snowfall – the biggest since 1971, according to Accuweather – is the importance of the left lane. Or more specifically, the importance of leaving that lane free in an emergency.

The DGT has learned to such an extent the need to keep the left lane free in the event of serious incidents, that, in the words of Pere Navarro –Director General of Traffic–, “we are studying including the obligation to leave the left lane free in certain cases of problems in the circulation” in a forthcoming modification of the Traffic Regulations.

2: ONLY ESSENTIAL DISPLACEMENTS: CHANGING THE MESSAGE

Pere Navarro, General Director of Traffic, commented, when taking stock of the episode of snowfall due to the storm Filomena, that “the message in which we ask citizens to stay at home and that they only make the essential movements, because it is not understood. It is the only way to understand that shopping malls were full of people on snow Friday until closing time”.

For this reason, the DGT will study how to specify this type of messages that are launched in the days prior to these episodes, so that they are clearer and more unequivocal.

3: THE IMPORTANCE OF WARNING … TO PREPARE

It is summarised by a phrase from Civil Protection: “Anticipation is the best tool,” in a statement. Thus, on December 31, 2020, AEMET (State Meteorological Agency), 8 days before the snowfall! Reported the arrival of the storm Filomena and announced the possibility of heavy snowfall. This note was ratified on January 3 and became a special notice on 5. In addition, on January 7 the alert was raised to red level in much of the Community of Madrid.

This early warning of the storm “allowed us –explains Jorge Ordás, deputy director of Mobility Management and Technology of the DGT– to prepare ourselves and have a greater capacity to react, reorganize and reinforce the troops”, with a modification of work shifts and days off of the essential maintenance personnel and control centres of the DGT. Also, the Traffic Group of the Guardia Civil made a collection of the necessary material to face its services (vehicles with chains, shovels, salt …) and the personnel to cover them.

On January 5, Civil Protection notified all the autonomous communities, brought together the Risk Assessment Unit –with AEMET, DGT and the General Directorate of Roads– and activated the pre-emergency phase of the State Emergency Plan –approved on 15 December.

For its part, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda placed 1,300 snow ploughs and 3,000 operators at strategic points.

In addition, the AEMET notices were widely reported in the press and were repeated in numerous interviews with authorities (36) and government ministers and delegates (300), which contributed to many drivers preparing their vehicles or postponing their journeys. And, as a DGT mantra says, “an informed driver is a safer driver” and in this line, Jorge Ordás points out, “dissemination and communication are key.”

4: IF YOU LEAVE THE VEHICLE: CONTACT

According to data from the emergency services SUMMA 112, about 1,500 vehicles had been stopped on the roads and highways in the Community of Madrid alone due to the storm Filomena on January 8 – and according to the Guardia Civil – there were more than 4,374 during the entire Filomena episode.

Many vehicles – whose occupants were transferred by the Guardia Civil with their vehicles to authorised places had to be removed by the Guardia Civil after cleaning the roads and taken to deposits –in Madrid, the transfer of a facility was negotiated with the City Council–, but it would have been easier for everyone to be able to notify the owners that they could remove them from where they had been trapped. The Guardia Civil should not have moved them nor should each owner go to the warehouse where they were left. The problem is that there was no way to contact them. For this reason, it is being evaluated how to articulate that, when a driver must abandon a vehicle on the road due to a justified circumstance, he must leave a contact telephone number visible from the outside.

5: PRIORITIES WHEN DISBURSING. TO AVOID COLLAPSES

The heavy snowfall caused by Filomena made clear the importance of logistics centres. In fact, the enormous flow of trucks coming and going to the logistics platforms for the distribution of goods was one of the main objectives of the measures to avoid the collapse of the roads.

Thus, the DGT and Guardia Civil allowed the passage of trucks on the roads that remained open or were being opened depending on the destination. “When we started to stop trucks”, explains Colonel Monzón, “we let those whose destinations were north, where the snowfall did not affect the roads, but we bagged those who went to the logistics platforms in Madrid”. Thus, the double objective of not interfering with the supply of areas not affected by the storm and not blocking roads affected by ice and snow was achieved. Monzón also highlights the importance of links: “On Sunday, the main roads in the most affected areas were clean, but it was necessary to keep trucks until the links with these roads could be cleaned, otherwise heavy vehicles could slip and collapse again. routes”.

Jorge Ordás – Deputy Director of Mobility Management of the DGT – highlighted the coordination effort necessary to carry out a disbursement with priorities, with more than 11,000 trucks stopped at 127 points: “They are disbursed depending on the destination and the state of the roads. This prevents the collapse from reproducing itself. For this, it is necessary to gather and manage the possible destinations, the state of the roads, etc.”

6: TRUCKS: RETAINING TO AVOID CHAOS

At its peak – and never better said with a snowfall – the Guardia Civil had collected, at the request of the DGT, just over 11,300 trucks, in a total of 127 areas, “with the coordination effort that this implies,– explains Jorge Ordás, DGT’s Deputy Director of Mobility and Technologies –, but also to supply blankets, food, water and other urgent matters to the truckers”.

However, Ordás is satisfied with the result of the measure, since, he explains, “a stopped truck blocks a road”. “A car that stops – explains Benito Monzón, colonel of the Madrid Traffic sector of the ATGC – we can remove it, but a truck collapses the road”. In addition, according to both those responsible, to move these vehicles you have to get to the place where a grua has stopped, stop many vehicles and move the truck, which with such a heavy snowfall and many cars stuck behind, complicates the operation.

“For this reason, as soon as the yellow level for snow was decreed, we decided to stop the trucks,” says Jorge Ordás. In addition, the Deputy Director of Mobility Management believes that it is better to carry out the bagging in the large winter road car parks (“because since then it is necessary to manage the arrival, departure and supplies of aid and food, it is more operative that they are few and large”), although when these were full it was necessary to use service areas and even gas station parking lots. He also believes that “they must be somewhat far from where the snowfall occurs, at least 50 kilometres before where the problems occur” , although this causes inconveniences: “The truckers, in the pockets, do not see snow and complain that they are being held back, they always have a friend who tells them that later on it has not snowed and there are pressures to allow them to continue traveling,” explains Ordás.

7: DEPENDING ON THE PRODUCT: PRIORITY SHIPMENTS

Although the confinement decreed in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic already revealed how essential the transport of food and merchandise was, storm Filomena has highlighted the need to prioritise shipments. For example, the DGT established an order of priority when facilitating and allowing the passage, when a road was semi-clear, of certain transports. Thus, the transport of salt, fluxes and pharmaceutical products were among those determined as priorities, according to Jorge Ordás, deputy director of Mobility Management. And, of course, the shipments made of the vaccines against Covid-19, which were also in the first order of priority.

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