Dublin airport reopens as heavy snow disrupts travel

 

Householders and motorists have been warned to prepare for another arctic night with temperatures expected to plummet to as low as minus 12 in some parts.

The Government’s emergency taskforce said transport services would again be curtailed, particularly along the east coast, where further heavy snow is forecast this evening and through the night.

Taskforce chairman Seán Hogan said the objective of all agencies was to keep the primary transport networks and key strategic routes open for traffic, but the severity of the conditions meant this may not always be possible.

In Dublin, all Luas services have been suspened until 5.30am. The operators of the service said this was because of heavy snow levels on the tracks and tram failures occuring as a result

Meanwhile, Dublin bus services are set to cease at 9pm.

Dublin Airport Authority suspended flights at the airport from 12.45pm to allow for snow and ice clearance. It is thought about 100 flights were affected by the closure. The authority said it flight operations resumed at 6.40pm. There is severe traffic disruption this evening on the M1, the main route to the airport, with vehicles virtually at a standstill leaving the city.

Passengers leaving the airport are also waiting for more than an hour for taxis. Intending passengers are advised to consult with their airline's website before coming to the airport.

Flights into and from Britain are also severely disrupted. Gatwick airport will be closed until at least 6am tomorrow. 

Met Éireann said tonight would be cold and icy, with temperatures ranging from minus 4 to minus 12 degrees.

Head of forecasting Gerald Fleming said the lowest temperatures would occur in the first part of the night. After midnight, a separate weather front would see a band of sleet and snow sweep across much of the country from the Atlantic. The next few days will see predominately dry weather causing a “slow thaw” which, he said, would lessen the chance of severe flooding. The lowest temperature recorded last night was minus 13.7 at Gorteen near Birr, Co Offaly.

At a severe weather briefing yesterday, Met Éireann warned the snowy conditions would last until at least next Wednesday. 

Motorists have been advised to take extreme care as frequent and heavy snow showers have impacted upon visibility and driving conditions. Overnight ice is expected to make driving conditions hazardous and Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus crews have been on the roads today assessing all routes. 

AA Roadwatch has advised motorists to stick to national primary routes "where at all possible" but have also warned that conditions are changing constantly. Recent snowfalls have been reported across the Leinster area with Dublin and Drogheda seeing a fresh blanket of snow.

The National Roads Authority said more than half of its stockpile of 80,000 tonnes of salt had already been used. Spokesman Seán O’Neill said the prudent management of supplies was expected to see the country through the current cold snap. He said the State was using about 3,500 tonnes per 24-hour period to maintain the national network of primary and secondary roads. However, last night saw a record 5,000 tonnes used on roads, primarily across Leinster.

Further pre-ordered shipments of salt from Egypt and Turkey were due to arrive in two weeks, he said. “We’re not salting every road in the country, our job is to maintain the national network,” he said.

Gavin McGuire, head of the national office for emergency planning at the Health Service Executive, said the emergency departments were witnessing higher levels of suspected fractures or sprains because of the bad weather but nothing like the levels seen during January’s cold snap. However, he said surgeons were reporting unusually high levels of children presenting with injuries, in particular tobogganing-related injuries. 

The poor conditions have forced the continued closure of schools and the cancellation of a host of sporting and other events around the State.

Heightened concern has been expressed by charities and community representatives for the homeless and other people vulnerable to the freezing temperatures. The Homeless Agency said this week that rough sleeping was being strictly monitoring on a daily basis to ensure there was sufficient bed capacity in emergency homeless accommodation.

The Defence Forces and Civil Defence volunteers have been providing assistance across the country in recent days and have helped people get to and from medical appointments when unable to do so themselves. They have also been distributing meals on wheels to isolated elderly people.

An Army spokesman said up to 150 Defence Forces personnel and 45 Army 4x4 vehicles were today helping local authorities. He said 20 personnel were each deployed in Dundalk, Drogheda, Newbridge, Kildare and Naas de-icing and gritting roads and footpaths. A further 50 soldiers were deployed around the country using 4x4 vehicles to transport medical staff and medicines to stranded patient

All classes at University College Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin City University and NUI Maynooth were cancelled, as were all civil cases at the High Court. The criminal courts were operating as normal.

Travel information:

Bus Eireann will post information on routes on www.buseireann.ie

Iarnrod Eireann anticipates some delays. www.irishrail.ie

Dublin Bus will inspect roads from early morning. www.dublinbus.ie

Dublin Airport Authority is working to keep runways open. Information on Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports at www.daa.ie

Fast ferries are expected to be disrupted on the Irish Sea. www.irishferries.ie and www.stenaline.ie

AA Roadwatch is continuously updating information on www.aaroadwatch.ie