Heavy snow to hit all areas
Heavy widespread snow is expected to fall across the country this evening and tonight as Ireland is hit by a severe cold weather system due to last until the end of next week.
Gerald Fleming of Met Éireann said the snow showers that affected coastal counties in the north and west have been moving inland during the day and will be followed by low pressure bringing “a much more organised band of snow down across country”.
Mr Fleming said it is difficult to predict which areas will be the worst affected, but most will see snow tonight.
“Some places, probably more in the northern half of the country, will see a considerable amount - 5 to 10cm - with more on higher ground.
“As that system drifts away tomorrow across the Irish Sea it could continue to bring snow to the east coast tomorrow for a good deal of the day,” he told a briefing of the National Emergency Co-Ordination Centre today.
The outlook is for the weather to remain “bitterly cold” for the next five to six days, with temperatures in some places not rising above freezing, before a gradual increase by the end of next week.
Snow showers are expected to continue into Sunday and Monday before the weather becomes drier.
Mr Fleming also said this month is on course to be the coldest December since Met Éireann records began.
Highest temperatures are predicted to be zero to 3 degrees at best, but it will feel substantially colder than the official forecast in the fresh northwesterly wind.
The initial band of snow pushed inland from the north and north-west yesterday afternoon, and heavy snowfalls were recorded overnight in Ulster, parts of the midlands, north Leinster and west Munster. Mayo, Leitrim, and the nine counties in Ulster have all been affected.
National Emergency Co-ordination Centre chairman Sean Hogan appealed for people to link up with the vulnerable and elderly in their community He also asked people in urban areas to clear snow from outside homes and commercial premises as it soon as it falls.
“There will be a short opportunity before the snow becomes compacted and frozen to clear it and to make the pathways safe and we’re asking people to seize that opportunity," he said.
Local authorities are continuing to restrict water supplies at night, and householders have been urged not to leave taps running.
City engineer Michael Philips of Dublin City Council told the briefing although the situation has stabilised and demand is now balanced with supply, water savings have been less than hoped for.
Mr Philips said the council will carry out a review on Monday to see how long the restrictions will remain in force but added he would “hope” that between December 23rd and 28th there will be no cut-offs.
Northern Ireland’s Met Office has issued an emergency flash warning for heavy snow for Co Antrim, Down and Derry. The snowfalls in the North are the heaviest for 25 years. More than 700 schools in Northern Ireland have shut and flights are disrupted at all three of Northern Ireland’s airports.
With only 14,000 tonnes of salt left in the State, National Roads Authority spokesman Seán O’Neill said the supply is being “critically managed” throughout the country to keep the national roads open.
Mr O’Neill admitted some local authorities have expressed concern with the lack of supply for local and regional roads, but he said the objective is to keep the national routes open.
He said a shipment of 25,000 tonnes is due to arrive in “the middle to end” of next week and there has to be a “disciplined management” of the current supply to last until then.
Addressing the briefing, Garda inspector John Ferris reminded motorists to reduce speed in the icy conditions and warned against being “too confident” where roads are treated.
He advised people planning long journeys over the Christmas period to use primary routes and to travel during daylight hours when possible. He also urged pedestrians to wear high-visibility jackets and not to walk with their hands in their pockets.
AA Roadwatch also advised motorists to restrict journeys to daylight hours, stick to primary roads where possible, as these will be prioritised for gritting and to increase braking distance.
Heavy snow is now reported in many areas nationwide.
In Connacht extreme care is needed on the N16 Sligo to Manorhamilton road and the N4 Dublin to Sligo road at Carraroe, and it is reported as very icy around Tubbercurry.
Care is needed on the Moylough to Dunmore road, Hospital road around Cliften and the Leenane to Maam Cross road. It is described as treacherous on the Ballinasloe to Portumna road, and parts of Connemara, N5 Castlebar to Westport road and Pontoon road near Castlebar are very icy.
In Ulster there are treacherous conditions in Carrickmacross and Monaghan town and much of Donegal.
In Munster there is very heavy snow on the N20 Cork to Limerick road between Croom and Charleville. In Kerry, motorists are advised to avoid Moll’s Gap Road out of Killarney and to use the N71/Kenmare Road instead. The Conor Pass remains closed.
Extreme care is needed in Co Clare around Shannon while there are reports of heavy snow in Co Limerick on the N21.
In Leinster the Longford to Ballymahon road is treacherous while conditions around Birr and Tullamore are described as icy. The N61 Kinnitty to Mountrath road is closed and there are very poor conditions near Navan and Kells
Care is also required when driving in Louth, Wicklow and Westmeath.
The vast majority of Bus Éireann services are operating as normal with some minor diversions and curtailments in places.
The situation will be assessed on an “hour-by-hour” basis in consultation with local authorities and other agencies and customers are advised to contact http://www.buseireann.ie.
Dublin Bus is operating as normal.
Belfast City Airport is closed for the rest of the evening due to snow.
Flights at Belfast International Airport remain suspended tonight. Earlier today, EasyJet and Aer Lingus cancelled the remainder of today’s flights to and from the airport.
Ireland West Airport at Knock is operating as scheduled, although the airport will continue to monitor conditions throughout the day.
Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports are open, but there are some delays and cancellations because of bad weather throughout Europe.
Passengers due to fly from all airports are advised to check the status of flights with their airlines before departing.
Iarnród Éireann said full services are operating throughout the network and plans are in place to deal with any eventuality. Intending passengers are advised to visit www.irishrail.ie or follow twitter.com/irishrail for updates.
Luas services are also operating as normal.
Elsewhere, bus transfers are running on the Dublin-Belfast rail line between Dundalk and Portadown due to a security alert at Newry, and these are likely to continue until tomorrow afternoon.