Ice causing disruption as further snow hits country

 

Motorists are being warned tonight of treacherous driving conditions with some towns impassable as a band of rain and snow moves across the country.

The adverse conditions are mainly affecting Ulster, Leinster and east Munster, and there is a risk that existing accumulations of snow will increase.

Met Éireann said there will be little or no wind, so freezing fog will form again in many places. Lowest temperatures will be minus 2 to minus 9 degrees, with black ice likely to be the most dangerous aspect of the low temperatures over the next few nights.

The severe weather has led to transport problems in Ulster this evening, with Belfast International Airport, Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport experiencing cancellations and delays on a number of routes.

The PSNI issued an alert to drivers on the M1 and M2 motorways to drive with “extreme caution”.

A spokeswoman called on motorists to “reduce speed to suit conditions as both routes are considered treacherous and passable only with extreme care.”

In Dublin, the city council said heavy snowfalls over the last week have deposited large amounts of snow on roofs. In some cases and the current thaw is causing heavy volumes of snow to slide of roofs suddenly and quickly. The council warned people, particularly smokers standing outside pubs, restaurants and other buildings to avoid standing or walking directly under roofs.

The council said it appreciated the efforts made by people clearing snow from driveways and outside their homes and businesses. It reiterated there was no liability attaching to this work, providing people do not create a health and safety danger in clearing snow and ice.

Slane in Co Meath is reported as impassable after a number of coaches got stuck on Glasallen Hill just north of the village and a number of cars have gone into ditches. A lorry has also jack-knifed in the village.

A garda spokesman has said motorists should avoid the village as it is impassable.

Monaghan Town should also be avoided as vehicles are getting stuck while N4 between Castlebaldwin and Collooney is impassable due to icy conditions.

Gardaí are also advising motorists to avoid the hill coming into Granard on the N55 from the Edgeworthstown side as roads remain treacherous and the Kilcock to Trim Rd (R158) is also impassable.

Many local authorities have said they are running low on salt for spreading on roads. Almost a full year’s supply of salt has been used nationally since the current cold spell began.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey this morning said he expected difficult travel conditions to persist until at least Thursday morning. He said those involved in the response to the severe weather deserved credit for keeping priority routes open and the majority of public transport services in operation.

When questioned about difficulties people were experiencing because of ice on footpaths and side roads and in housing estates, Mr Dempsey said it was not possible to clear every road here or in any other country.

“It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is. We don’t have the manpower to do that," he told RTÉ Morning Ireland.

“It is a major difficulty but nobody ever said at any stage that all housing estates, all minor roads could be cleared. It’s just not physically possible. You can see the effort that has been put in to clear the priority routes and to clear some of the footpaths.”

Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South East Chris Andrews called on the Minister for Defence to mobilise the army to distribute grit to assist residents of icy housing estates. “Council staff and community groups are doing an incredible job and should be commended. However, given the scale of the clearance work I believe the army should be deployed immediately to local communities to assist in the clearing effort,” he said.

The Irish Association of Emergency Medicine said there had been a significant upsurge in the number of injuries caused by falls during this period of severe weather but that the extent of the problem had not reached the levels seen during the cold snap at the beginning of this year.

The association said the increased number of patients needing surgical procedures throughout the country, coupled with bed closures, had resulted in considerable overcrowding.

Public transport services including Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Irish rail and Luas are all operational but with some curtailments, diversions and restrictions. Dublin Bus said its last services would depart the suburbs and city centre at 9pm tonight while Bus Éireann also said it could not guarantee any of its services from the capital from 9pm.

Dublin airport is open but intending passengers are advised to check with their airline directly for further information before traveling to the airport. Cork and Shannon airports are also open.

The Government’s emergency planning unit met this morning and agreed the objective during the cold spell would be to keep the primary road network and other key strategic routes and public transport routes to stay open for traffic.

However, Fine Gael Transport Spokesman Simon Coveney said thousands of people struggled to get to work this morning. He said “serious problems” have been reported on vital routes throughout the county such as the M7, M3, M6, M1, M3 and national roads such as the N2 and N4 as well as the M50.

“The question must be asked of the Government: has it learned nothing at all from the chaos during the Big Freeze last January” he said.