Significant disruption to schools and public transport is expected across Ireland on Friday as snow, ice and freezing temperatures make conditions treacherous into the weekend.
A senior emergency official said people should take Met Éireann’s weather warnings “quite seriously” amid two status orange notices for large parts of the country.
Keith Leonard, the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management Co-ordination Group chairman, said driving would be hazardous and there would be disruption to public-transport services, while school closures in affected areas could not be ruled out.
“There is definitely a question mark over schools opening everywhere but it’ll be hard to know which schools will be affected so principals will make that decision tomorrow based on the local conditions,” he said.
“School principals across the country will be making that judgment tonight and tomorrow morning.”
Mr Leonard was speaking as Met Éireann forecast significant accumulations of snow and ice over the next 24 hours.
Met Éireann senior forecaster Gerry Murphy said Friday would be “a day for not travelling at all unless you absolutely have to”. Speaking on RTE’s Six-One News he said the conditions represented “really quite a significant weather event”.
Across the country local authorities have put in place a concerted programme of advice and safety measures including gritting of roads and the placing of emergency services on standby. Cold-weather arrangements are in place throughout the country to ensure adequate capacity to prevent anybody rough sleeping. The directorate’s crisis-management team, which includes representatives of Met Éireann, local authorities, emergency services and others, will meet again on Friday morning to assess prospects for coming days.
Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Clare, Connacht, Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath came under a status orange snow and ice warning at 11am, with the warning to remain in place until midnight.
People in these areas are being advised of further spells of sleet and snow combined with strong east to northeast winds, which could lead to very hazardous road conditions, travel disruption and poor visibility.
Significant accumulations of snow are expected in some areas, along with icy conditions, the national forecaster said.
In Northern Ireland, an orange snow and ice warning is in place for Antrim, Armagh and Down, with a yellow warning in place for the other counties.
A second status orange snow and ice warning will come into effect for Leinster from midnight until 10am tomorrow.
Residents are being advised of lying snow and sub-zero temperatures overnight, which could lead to icy stretches.
A separate status yellow warning remains in place for the entire country until midday on Friday, with the national forecaster warning of rain, sleet and snow.
Temperatures could reach as low as minus four degrees on Thursday night.
Weather conditions across the south of the country will remain disruptive for travel on Friday. Driving conditions may be particularly hazardous on Friday morning from 6am to 10am. Cork County Council said its crews would continue to salt designated priority routes but the authority advised motorists to exercise extreme caution. The council warned conditions including intermittent rainfall and snow and freezing temperatures can be challenging to treat and ice may be prevalent.
The advice for the next 24 hours at least is:
· Any travel arrangements should be planned carefully in advance of setting out
· All road users should be aware of the potential for hazardous travelling conditions, particularly on untreated roads and allow extra time for all road journeys
· Motorists should slow down and be aware of the dangers posed by poor visibility during periods of falling sleet/snow
· Pedestrians should be aware for the potential of slips and falls in icy conditions particularly on untreated roads and footpaths
Limerick and Clare were carpeted in thick snow flurries on Thursday morning. The midwest woke up to about 2.5cm of snow, but the wintry precipitation was expected to ease as the day continued.
A woman was rescued from a snowbound Carrauntoohil in Co Kerry, Ireland’s highest mountain, in treacherous conditions early on Thursday morning. The injured woman had fallen and required help and was among a party of six stuck in a gully in the Hag’s Glen area.
She was safely brought down at 1.30am after an eight-hour operation by members of Kerry Mountain Rescue. Conditions on the mountains were “extremely challenging”, the rescuers said.
“This was a long and difficult operation,” spokesman Gerry Christie said. The party had to be brought up to a higher ridge before being led down. It was snowing at the time though not freezing.
Visibility was poor in the south of Kerry county on Thursday morning, while in Limerick roads were in a treacherous condition with reports of trucks jackknifing. Ballybunion, Listowel, Athea and Abbeyfeale were worst affected. The Short Mountain Road from Castlemaine, Co Kerry, remains closed.
Due to ice and snow in rural parts of the county, some TFI Local Link Limerick Clare services were disrupted with cancellations and delays but were due to resume later on Thursday.
St Patrick’s National School in Glencullen, Dublin, closed as a result of the weather, according to a tweet from the school’s Twitter account.
Meanwhile, a senior engineer with Limerick County Council thanked HGV drivers for their patience as council workers treated dangerous conditions on the N21 – the main road from Limerick to Killarney and Tralee. A section of the road has a hill which trucks were not able to traverse in the snowy conditions.
Hugh McGrath, senior road engineer for Limerick City and County Council, told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne programme that it had been “a difficult night” for council crews to judge the timing to commence treatment of roads. The council was focusing on national and regional roads, he said. “By the time we would get to them [rural roads] nature has taken its course.”
With rain due in the afternoon in the region and temperatures expected to drop tonight roads will require treatment tonight, again, timing will be important for crews.
“We will be making sure we have the snow ploughs ready, it’s rare that we get to use them.”
The State’s crisis-management team for extreme weather held a virtual meeting on Wednesday to discuss the impacts of the expected snowfall.
The meeting of the Department of Housing group included officials from local authorities, other departments, Met Éireann and first-response organisations. It held a second virtual meeting at 11am on Thursday.
The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said it had a protocol in place which sets out a co-ordinated response during extreme weather conditions.
“Extreme weather contingency beds are temporary and activated for the period of the alert, these are provided by NGO partners on behalf of the DRHE. All emergency accommodation is provided on a 24-hour basis with meals,” the executive said.
“We encourage anyone requiring emergency accommodation to contact their local authority or the freephone service early in the day. The Dublin Region Outreach Service is working directly with rough sleepers from 7am to 1am daily and assists any individuals they meet to take up emergency accommodation.”
Mr Murphy said earlier that as the snow cleared away overnight, a very sharp frost with ice would follow it, meaning the roads would be “quite treacherous” on Friday morning.
“Between the frost overnight, snow and then rain and snow, especially over the eastern half of the country in the morning, certainly tomorrow morning will be quite hazardous on the roads,” he added.
The Road Safety Authority has advised all road users to prepare for “hazardous” conditions on the roads and reduced visibility.
It said motorists should check local traffic conditions and weather before any journeys during the poor weather.