Ireland braces for ‘exceptional’ snow event

Met Éireann may move to upgrade warning level to red on Wednesday morning

Temperatures are set to plunge to -6C tonight, as Ireland braces for the Beast from the East. Met Eireann has a Status Orange alert in place from 2pm today and a large amount of snow is expected to fall overnight. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The Defence Forces are on standby to help out as an “exceptional” snow event sweeps over the State later this week, with gales of up to 110km/h also expected.

The chair of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group for Severe Weather, Seán Hogan, said the weather event was unfolding as Met Éireann had forecast.

A status orange warning, the second most severe level, for snow and ice is in place for counties Dublin, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Wicklow and Meath from Tuesday afternoon until 11am on Wednesday

Scattered snow showers are expected to bring accumulations of 4 to 6cm in these areas by Wednesday morning, in addition to widespread frost and icy conditions.

A less serious status yellow snow and ice warning has also been issued for counties Kilkenny, Longford, Wexford, Offaly, Westmeath, Cork, Tipperary and Waterford, with snow accumulations of up to 3cm expected in some areas by morning.

A status yellow low temperature warning was also issued for Ireland, running from Tuesday evening to 11am on Wednesday.

A “significant snow event” with possible blizzard conditions is forecast for Thursday evening.

Mr Hogan said local authorities and public services were responding “to keep the country moving in so far as possible” during the bad weather.

“Defence Forces are ready to help us and deploy manpower for some particular missions that are being contemplated here,” he said.

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Mr Hogan said the Defence Forces may be called upon to assist the ESB with power lines and scenarios where motorists are in difficulty on the roads.

He said local authorities are continuing to grit roads and that salt stocks are “good”, while extra bed space had been made available for rough sleepers.

Mr Hogan said school transport and public transport would continue to run subject to local conditions.

“It will be for each school to consider whether it’s appropriate to open,” he said. “We have asked the schools to keep parents informed of their plans as early as possible.”

Taps

Mr Hogan said householders should not run their taps and that reservoir levels and water supplies were “good” at present.

He said Met Éireann would be in a better position on Wednesday morning to judge if the current status orange weather warning would be upgraded to the more serious status red warning.

Evelyn Cusack, deputy head of forecasting at Met Éireann, said the air temperature dropped to minus 5 degrees on Monday night.

She said cold polar air was over Ireland on Tuesday and that this would lead to some snow showers on Tuesday night and Wednesday, with more forecast for Thursday.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Older People Jim Daly earlier advised older people of a scheme which will allow them to claim back money on extra fuel they use to keep warm during the cold spell.

“People need to be aware that this scheme exists,” Mr Daly told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke programme. “It is the Exceptional Needs Payment scheme, it has been there for years. It is for payments out of the ordinary and comes from the Community Welfare Officer.”

He said he wanted to ensure that no older person goes without an extra bag of coal or an extra bale of briquettes “because of cost”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon that Mr Daly’s advice to the elderly to keep their heating on 24/7 during the cold weather was “not the advice of Government”.

Mr Varadkar said the Government could not offer a “blank cheque” to pick up the full fuel bill.

The Department of Social Protection has said support was available in addition to the fuel allowance scheme, under which claimants are entitled to €22.50 a week.

A spokeswoman for the department said the urgent needs payment is payable “to a person who may not normally qualify for social welfare support but that they have an urgent need due to these severe weather conditions”.

“What we would be saying to people is if you have an issue, do purchase your fuel, come and talk to the community welfare service and they’ll examine the claims in a sensitive manner, taking into account the exceptional weather conditions,” the spokeswoman said.