Warning over black ice threat as temperatures to plummet

High intensity rainfall due in places ahead of ‘a good deal cooler’ weather next week

The safety of the country’s roads will be under threat from “potentially lethal” black ice in coming days as temperatures drop on flooded ground, Met Éireann has warned.

High intensity rainfall is expected in the south and southeast, reaching a peak at noon on Saturday, with status yellow warnings in place in Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary, Wicklow and Dublin.

This will increase the risk of flooding on already saturated ground.

The coming week will be showery everywhere, with another spell of heavy rain expected midweek. It will also be "a good deal cooler", Met Éireann's head of forecasting Gerald Fleming said, increasing the risks of black ice on roads.


“Over the coming week we will see more frosty nights, reverting to a more normal temperature regime for mid-winter,” Mr Fleming said.

‘Exceptionally dangerous’

“Where you get frost on a dry road usually it’s white and you can see it, but where the road is already wet and it freezes you get black ice which is exceptionally dangerous because it can look to the driver just like a wet road - and the adhesion that you have to the road in your car is virtually nothing.

“ If you get stuck into that situation it is potentially lethal and its something to watch in days to come. Where obviously the main road network is well maintained and salted, the side roads typically are not treated.”

Mr Fleming was speaking at a briefing by the National Emergency Co-ordination Group on Friday.

Close to 200 properties have been flooded since Storm Frank hit the country last Wednesday, with another 100 threatened or "marooned" by the floods, chairman of the group John Barry said.

No access

“There are a significant number of properties marooned, where the property is dry but access isn’t available.”

Emergency payments of €145,000 have so far been allocated to 160 flooded households from the €10 million humanitarian assistance fund.

Jim Casey of the Office of Public Works said many parts of the country remained in a "severe flood situation", with particular concern about towns along the Shannon, and in the south and south east.

Athlone concerns

The Shannon was continuing to rise along its full length, Mr Casey said, but the area of greatest concern was Athlone. “The mid-catchment Athlone area has risen by 2cm further in the last 48 hours and it is 11cm over its recent peak and approximately 5cm below the highest record level in 2009.”

There was a risk he said that water levels in Athlone would breach that 2009 record. “In Athlone, as long as levels continue to rise, that potential is certainly there.”

Intense rain will also affect the catchments of the Munster Blackwater, the Suir, the Barrow, the Nore, and the Slaney, he said.

The ESB said the continued rainfall made it likely water levels in Lough Derg could reach 2009 levels in coming days.

It had increased the flow of water through the Parteen Weir from 440 to 470 cubic metres per second.

However, the ESB hoped not to increase flows from the Inniscarra Dam above 250 cubic metres per second.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times