Unexpected snowfall gives way to hail and sleet as drivers warned of dangerous roads

Orange-level warning could have been issued but extent of snow took Met Éireann by surprise, says forecaster

Snow falling in Dublin this morning. Photographs: Tom Honan, Brian Lawless, Leon Farrell, Colin Keegan

The unexpected snowfall seen across the country on Friday looks set to give way to hail and sleet as drivers have been warned of dangerous conditions on thawing roads.

Met Éireann has said Saturday will start cold and icy, with showers of rain, hail and sleet over the day. However, there is a chance of an isolated snow shower in the northwest, the forecaster said.

Temperatures will rise to between 3 and 7 degrees in the afternoon, before falling quickly after dark on Sunday night under clear skies with frost and icy patches developing, and lows of minus 2 to 2 degrees.

On Friday there were three yellow weather warnings in place: a status-yellow snow-ice warning for Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Wexford, Wicklow and Munster was in place until 6pm on Friday; while a yellow rain warning for Dublin, Louth, Meath and Wicklow was in place until 3am on Saturday.

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A yellow ice warning for the entire country came into effect at 6pm on Friday and will end at 9am on Saturday.

As much of the snowfall begins to end on Friday night, motorists are being advised to be cautious while out on the roads.

While public transport has largely resumed to full services, operators are warning of potential delays.

The sudden onset of snow and sleet mean many road surfaces are untreated, resulting in potentially dangerous travelling conditions.

Met Éireann senior forecaster Gerry Murphy said the body could, in hindsight, have issued an orange level snow and ice warning, but the extent of the snow took Met Éireann by surprise. The weather warning for snow and ice was issued at 3am on Friday.

“It was very short notice and that wasn’t much comfort for people commuting,” he told RTÉ radio One. “The magnitude of the snow that did occur was more than was in our warning.”

Mr Murphy reiterated that it was “notoriously tricky” to forecast when there is a mixture of rain, sleet and snow as to what will fall. In some cases yellow snow warnings have been issued which have not materialised.

The heavy snow caused considerable disruption throughout the country, with some schools in Cavan, Longford and Roscommon reported to have closed and four League of Ireland games being postponed.

There were long tailbacks on primary roads and motorways in the early morning, while the M50 was closed for over an hour on Friday afternoon.

Public transport operators curtailed services or put diversions in place on Friday morning as a result of the weather, before full services resumed that afternoon, though with significant delays for some operators.

Longford County Council warned some roads in the county were partially blocked due to the early morning snow. Snow ploughs were deployed to these locations on a priority basis, with national and regional routes being addressed first.

Wicklow County Council, meanwhile, urged the public to avoid upland areas due to the heavy snowfall. Snow ploughs were working on clearing the route, however, some vehicles went off road in advance of the roads being cleared.

Groups working with homeless people and refugees raised concerns about the conditions for people who are living in tents on the streets.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) shared images of tents, which international protection applicants were living in, having collapsed beneath the heavy snowfall. Many of those living in the area said their belongings had been ruined and they were freezing cold.

It was a “terrible and distressing” situation, the IRC said on social media, and criticised the Government and council’s response.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times