MEET Bill Manby – the unseen man who will help to mastermind York’s army of winter warriors when snow and ice hit York in coming months.
Operations manager Mr Manby, along with two City of York Council colleagues, Dave Batchelor and John Ross, is responsible for alerting volunteer snow wardens when freezing weather is looming and pavements, side streets and cul-de-sacs are in danger of turning into ice rinks.
From the council’s eco depot at Hazel Court, off James Street, they send out text messages and tweets to about 80 wardens on standby in neighbourhoods across the city, ready to clear snow away with their shovels and scatter grit to tackle icy conditions.
With wintry weather having arrived early this year, Mr Manby has already sent out several such warnings, with one typical message reading: “Gritting to start at 18:30, 10g grit, RSTS (road surface temperatures) below zero tonight with some patchy ice in any damp spots and some hoar frost.”
His weather warnings also go out to the council’s own gritting crews but he says the wardens’ help is invaluable in keeping the city safe, as there is no way the council’s staff can instantly get round and clear all footpaths and side roads each time there has been a fall of snow.
However, he stresses that he cannot tell any volunteers what to do, but merely inform them when forecasters are predicting icy weather, so they can assist if possible.
“We have about 70 to 80 wardens,” he said. “Dunnington is particularly well organised with about eight or nine out there.”
He said that with the scheme now entering its second winter, the authority would welcome more volunteers, each of whom would be issued with a shovel, high-visibilty vest and woolly hat and gloves, and given safety training.
The idea for snow wardens originated in Calgary, Canada, where a group known as the Snow Angels committed themselves to helping other more vulnerable members of the community.
• For more information about how to volunteer as a warden in York, phone 01904 551551 or visit www.york.gov.uk