Around the country

 

A round-up of conditions countrywide

THE NORTH

Northern Ireland continued to be badly hit by the freezing conditions with a record low temperature of -18 degrees recorded in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, on Sunday night.

The snow, ice and freezing fog caused havoc on roads around Northern Ireland, particularly non-main roads. Train and bus services were also disrupted.

More than 500 schools were closed with several deciding to call their Christmas holidays early because of the continuing severe conditions.

Belfast International Airport, George Best Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport managed to remain open yesterday, but there were cancellations and delays.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is suspending transport for non-emergency patients today. Postal services are badly affected, with Royal Mail hoping to arrange additional deliveries to try to clear the backlog.

SDLP Assembly member Conall McDevitt called for the creation of a special Northern Executive task force to try to address a range of problems created by the adverse weather conditions.

Sinn Féin Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy argued that there was little point in such a response as the various departments were already involved in a range of measures to try to keep services running. GERRY MORIARTY

GALWAY-MAYO

Plummeting temperatures in the west have resulted in a record low of minus 17 degrees being record in Straide, Foxford, Co Mayo.

Large flocks of hungry redwings have been sighted in urban areas of Galway and Mayo, as distressed birds try to forage for food and water.

Local authorities have appealed for water conservation and have asked householders to check on neighbours who may be sick or elderly or living alone.

Temperatures did not rise above minus 3 degrees at the height of sunshine in Galway, resulting in black ice and very risky driving conditions, even on roads that are gritted.

A shortage of salt is affecting efforts by Mayo County Council to treat roads in the region. Supplies are being conserved for major routes only. Mayo county secretary John Condon has warned of fresh difficulties when the thaw comes – the problem of burst water pipes.

“Water supplies could come under pressure because of burst pipes,” Mr Condon said. “In order to avoid the possibility of water rationing over Christmas, we are asking people to conserve water.”

Public transport is running on all routes, but with some delays and diversions. Most schools remained open in Galway city yesterday, but some county schools were forced to close. LORNA SIGGINS and TOM SHIEL

MIDLANDS

Although temperatures remained sub-zero around the midlands yesterday, local authorities have kept main roads open even with dwindling salt stocks. Met Éireann recorded overnight temperatures of minus 10.6 in Mullingar yesterday, where Westmeath County Council warned motorists that its mixture of grit and salt was not as effective as pure salt.

Both Offaly and Westmeath County Council are urging residents to conserve water during the cold spell. They have asked that residents desist from running taps to prevent pipes from freezing.

KERRY

Kerry County Council wants to regain control of salt supplies from the National Roads Authority, and organise its own supplies in 2011, according to the Kerry county manager.

The NRA took over control of the supplies this year.

Manager Tom Curran said at a council meeting that during this cold spell the local authority had little or no control over where and when it could obtain supplies.

Last week it had to send two trucks to Greenore, Co Louth, for 60 tonnes of salt, which was only enough for one night.

Mr Curran said he was not at all satisfied with the service under the NRA and the council was to look at ways of obtaining its own salt supplies in future.

“At the moment, we are limited to where the NRA will allow us to purchase salt. The NRA has a framework agreement in place and local authorities are told where to get their salt,” Mr Curran told the meeting. The council did not have the same problems with salt shortages last winter because it controlled its own salt supplies, he said.

So far this winter, Kerry has spent €750,000 in dealing with adverse road conditions due to the weather, including overtime and machinery and other materials. ANN LUCEY