A period of exceptionally cold weather is “at our doorstep” and will have an impact on people across the State, members of the Government’s severe weather taskforce have warned.
Met Éireann has issued four weather warnings as the "beast from the east" cold front passes over the country this week.
The forecaster has upgraded the level of snow warning for the east of the country to status orange, its second most serious level. The warning will come into effect on Tuesday at 3pm and will remain in place until 11am on Wednesday.
Everyone's talking about the #BeastFromTheEast. This short silent film explains what it is pic.twitter.com/YWo5G2ZctO— Met Office (@metoffice) February 22, 2018
It covers counties Dublin, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Wicklow and Meath and promises snow showers, accumulations of between 4cm and 6cm and widespread frost and icy conditions.
Meanwhile, a status yellow weather warning remains in place for counties Kilkenny, Longford, Wexford, Offaly, Westmeath, Cork, Tipperary and Waterford.
That warning promises snow accumulations of up to 3cm as well as widespread frost and ice.
There is also a status yellow low temperature warning in place for the entire country with lows of -5 expected on Monday night.
The worsening weather has already led to the cancellation of a number of flights into Dublin on Tuesday. Aer Lingus said flights EI 156 Dublin to Heathrow, EI 157 Heathrow to Dublin, EI 176 Dublin to Heathrow and EI 177 Heathrow to Dublin for February 27th have been cancelled.
The airline has been asked by the Heathrow Airport Authority to reduce its schedule due to forecast severe weather conditions which are likely affect operations at the airport throughout the day.
The National Emergency Co-ordination Group for Severe Weather met on Monday morning and is set to meet at least once a day for the rest of the week.
Chairman of the group Seán Hogan said the cold weather conditions are going to affect everyone across the country with a “significant snow event” expected for Thursday night.
“Some of the indicators for this event may in fact go back to the winter of 1982 when there was extreme snow and blizzard conditions,” he said.
“The snow for Thursday night, it may be joined with wind and that will give us blizzard conditions which will be difficult . . . What we’re asking people to do is be conscious that this weather is coming and to make the preparations.”
Minister for Planning Eoghan Murphy said “there is an exceptionally cold weather event at our doorstep and it will have an impact on the country”.
“There is likely to be some disruption at the end of the week. It’s going to be very cold and there could be some disruption to travel . . . because of heavy snowfall,” he said.
Mr Murphy said that if the weather warning is upgraded to Status Red – the most severe – then it would lead to “automatic school closures”.
“If we were to see a Status Red issued for Thursday for the south and east, that would lead to school closures because of public transport closures. And at that point in time we would be giving other advice as to what we’ll be recommending in terms of people travelling to and from work.”
The Department of Education announced that schools countrywide will remain open on Monday. The decision to close subsequently will be left to individual schools.
“The department is continuing to monitor the situation nationwide and will follow any advice from the National Emergency Co-ordination Group.”
Mr Hogan said “this is an evolving situation” and asked the public to monitor Met Éireann’s weather forecasts and warnings.
Deputy head of forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack said "all week is going to be exceptionally cold with a penetrating frost".
“From Wednesday evening, Wednesday night and Thursday morning we are talking about snow showers from the Irish Sea,” she said. “The high danger area for countrywide is Thursday evening, Thursday night and Friday morning.”
Local authorities began salting “priority routes” on Monday while snow ploughs were put on standby, as were the fire services and the civil defence.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) said it has 120,000 tonnes of salt, about five times the amount used during the freezing conditions that occurred in the winter of 2010.
Director of communications at TII Seán O’Neill said “a lot of regional roads might not get salted or ploughed”.
“The national network is critical. That’s where we’ll be focused and local authorities will be focused. Additional rural road networks are going to be difficult to deal with.”
Dublin City Council said its roads gritting crews are on standby to salt 300km of street networks covering national, regional and bus routes. It said the council's road divisions will be implementing the winter maintenance plan covering severe snow and ice.
Louth County Council has also said it will treat all roads in the county from Monday morning.
Mr Murphy said an additional 104 emergency beds have been put in place for rough sleepers.
“A temporary facility has been put in place and is ready, if needed, as a contingency in the Dublin area and that will be run by one of our partner organisations, the McVerry Trust.
“We’ve extra rough sleeper teams going out to try get people into safe, secure accommodation before the cold weather hits.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said “we are expecting very severe cold weather to affect Ireland in the coming days”.
“The beast from the east is coming our way . . . I would ask people to pay close attention to any weather warnings and advice that is issued in the coming days,” he said.
“Where advice is issued in relation to workplaces and travel, that will be clear. We will either be asking people to stay at home and not make unnecessary journeys. Or if they are in work already, to stay in work and not make unnecessary journeys.”