Cold snap to last until Friday
The freezing weather is set to continue until Friday, with sleet, snow, freezing fog and ice forecast across the country over the coming days.
Temperatures are expected to drop as low as minus six tonight, with widespread icy stretches and a severe frost. Snow is forecast to fall in parts of Connacht, west Munster and along the east coast.
Last night was the coldest of the winter so far, with nearly all weather stations returning temperatures below freezing. Gurteen Agricultural College station in North Tipperary registered minus 6.3 degrees, the coldest air temperature in the country this winter.
The north of the country experienced the heaviest snowfall today, with several schools choosing to close.
More snow and sleet is expected across the country tomorrow after an icy start to the morning. Pockets of freezing fog are likely to linger, especially in the midlands.
AA Roadwatch has warned motorists to use fog lights if necessary, and where roads are icy, drivers should slow down, keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front and reduce gears rather than brake if the car starts to skid.
The traffic watchdog has urged people to continue to avoid the Wicklow Gap and Sally Gap which are still under heavy snow. A number of motorists had to be rescued from the area over the weekend after they became stranded.
Milder weekend ahead
Met Éireann forecaster Pat Clarke said the next few nights will be exceptionally cold.
“In the short term, there will be no improvement. It will be cold, icy, there will be fog and dangerous driving conditions,” he said.
“Over the week there will be some scattered hail, sleet and snow, but it will be in small amounts. It will not be like what we have had before.”
It will become windier and warmer as the weekend approaches, with temperatures reaching 5 to 9 degrees on Friday. The weekend is expected to be blustery, with sunny spells and showers in western counties.
Seven die in Britain
Conditions are worse in Britain, where freezing temperatures have claimed the lives of seven people, including a postman who died in Exmoor in Somerset while carrying out his rounds for the Royal Mail over the weekend.
Fresh flurries of snow were forecast to fall overnight tonight, with up to 4 inches expected on top of already frozen snow in some places.
Almost 40 flights were cancelled at Heathrow Airport today, while Gatwick Airport also experienced disruption.
Economists are warning that Britain's cold snap could seriously damage retail sales and construction, and possibly drive the economy into a triple-dip recession.
"The longer the bad weather goes on, the more activity it will bleed away and unfortunately the greater the probability of a triple dip," said Phil Rush, an economist at Nomura International Plc.