Siberian conditions affect whole country

 

OVERVIEW:SNOW STORMS and freezing temperatures almost brought the country to a standstill yesterday as severe weather from Siberia continued to affect the country.

Public transport was cancelled or severely curtailed in many areas, with the east and southeast worst affected.

The closure of schools and colleges continued and emergency units came under pressure as the number of fractures increased.

Snow storms yesterday afternoon severely affected transport in Dublin, while Waterford and Wexford experienced their heaviest snowfall in decades.

Cars and buses were slowed to a crawl in Dublin city centre and many cars were abandoned by drivers attempting to return home last night. Many of Dublin Bus’s services were halted while others were curtailed.

Intercity, Dart and commuter train services operated but with delays, and the Luas service was also maintained, although there were delays caused by cars blocking junctions. Some Bus Éireann services were cancelled and others were delayed or curtailed.

Dublin airport was closed until 7pm following heavy snow showers in the afternoon. Many flights destined for Dublin were diverted to Shannon airport.

Hundreds of schools around the country were closed again today and colleges have also been affected. Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University and Dublin Institute of Technology were all closed and are expected to decide this afternoon whether they will open tomorrow.

The Health and Safety Authority has urged all workers to be cautious and not take unnecessary risks in the freezing weather.

Its chief executive Martin O’Halloran said conditions were similar to those experienced last January and posed extra risk for workers, particularly those who drive for a living and work outdoors. He urged farmers to take extra care, carry a mobile phone at all times and let someone know where they were.

“Workers should avoid working alone in high-risk situations, wear warm hi-visibility clothing and keep in regular contact with their colleagues or bases,” he said.

Last night AA Roadwatch said fresh and compacted snow was causing major problems, mainly in the Leinster and southeast regions. The southwest, west and northwest were not as badly affected, but there were some dangerous, icy stretches.

Also last night, the four local authorities in Dublin and both Wicklow and Kildare local authorities set up a local co-ordination centre to help cope with the weather conditions. They advised motorists not to undertake journeys unless absolutely necessary and to use public transport where possible.

The freezing weather put pressure on hospital emergency departments, although numbers were not yet as high as last winter.

Dr Patrick Plunkett, consultant at the emergency unit of St James’s Hospital, Dublin, said the number of people presenting there with fractures was “hugely up” and the pressure on the system was enormous. People were mainly presenting with broken elbows, wrists and ankles.

He advised people to stay at home if possible. “They should walk slowly if they do go out, and shouldn’t wear leather soles.”

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service appealed for blood donations, saying that unless there was a significant increase in donations, hospitals could be advised to cancel elective surgery.

Paddy Bowler, operations director with the service, said there was about five to six days supply of blood in stock, but while demand was remaining constant, staff based in rural areas were having difficulty reaching clinics.

Seven additional clinics would be set up in Dublin and Cork this Sunday afternoon to try to collect additional supplies. Details of the clinics will be available on the service website: www.giveblood.ie