independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Ireland 'ready for winter weather'

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said 'no government is more powerful than Mother Nature'

Ireland is better prepared than ever for severe winter weather but can never be more powerful than Mother Nature, the Government has warned.

After two of the most punishing winters in recent memory, Cabinet ministers charged with the country's emergency planning said lessons have been learned.

But despite amassing more than three times the salt stocks needed for an average Irish winter to keep key roads open if sub-zero temperatures strike again, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar would not rule out major problems.

"We are better prepared than ever before," he said. "Having said that, and as we've seen from the recent events in America, no government is more powerful than Mother Nature."

Met Eireann's Ger Fleming said there was no signal of any severe weather over the coming weeks.

But he stressed that forecasters can not reliably predict conditions beyond three weeks, adding that the past two winters were considered extreme cases.

In fact, the long-term trends show that winters in Ireland were becoming milder.

Outlining plans for any repeat of the arctic conditions at the National Emergency Co-ordination Centre in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said the main priority would be to keep motorways and the national primary road network open. Important public transport services including the airports would also be top of the agenda.

The National Roads Authority and local authorities around the country bought an extra 60,000 tonnes of salt over the summer to replace stocks used up last winter. The extra stocks bring to 210,000 tonnes the amount of salt stored at eight depots around the country. Mr Varadkar said around 60,000 tonnes was needed during an average winter.

The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning urged people to visit the Be Winter Ready website at www.winterready.ie for practical advice on the months ahead.

Press Association

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