Drivers warned as temperatures plummet
Published 06/12/2010 | 10:03
Motorists have been warned of the dangers of freezing fog and black ice as the sub zero temperatures continue for another two nights.
Met Eireann forecast snow falling in the north and west will spread across the midlands, with wintry outbreaks of sleet and snow in parts of Leinster and east Munster.
Temperatures are set to plummet to minus 8 degrees overnight, causing freezing fog and widespread ice on untreated roads and footpaths.
Snow is not expected to fall in Dublin, but the bitterly cold weather is due to last until Thursday when temperatures will rise and slowly thaw thick ice.
Noel Brett, of the Road Safety Authority, said dense fog reduces visibility and makes driving very dangerous.
"Freezing fog, when liquid fog droplets freeze to surfaces, can make it difficult to keep the windscreen surface clear. Combined with icy road surfaces, it's a driver's worst nightmare," he said.
"Road users should follow weather forecasts and general advice about driving conditions, and should avoid driving, cycling or walking in fog unless absolutely necessary."
Although main roads have been gritted, pedestrians are warned to take extra care on treacherous footpaths and in housing estates, with communities urged to clear ice from outside homes and businesses.
Health chiefs reported a 30pc to 50pc increase in the numbers attending emergency departments over the weekend, many suffering broken bones from falls.
The Defence Forces said more than 1,300 soldiers and 420 vehicles have been used to assist the civil authorities during the cold snap.
A spokesman said its focus remains on providing mobility to health care professionals in 4x4 vehicles and assisting with snow and ice clearance.
Meanwhile Age Action urged people to check on elderly neighbours and relatives during the prolonged cold snap, claiming people could be running out of food, fuel and medication.
The cold weather has already claimed the life of two pensioners, including an 85-year-old man who was found dead near his home outside Ballina in Co Mayo.
Gardai believe he died after he slipped and fell on ice.
Bus Eireann said the vast majority of its services were operating as normal, while Dublin Bus said a small number of routes have suffered diversions and curtailments.
Hundreds of schools around the country also remain closed due to icy conditions.
Elsewhere Dublin City Council advised homeowners not to run taps or waste water during the cold snap after 11 water mains broke over the weekend, but stressed there was increased water in reservoirs close to urban areas.
Galway City Council also revealed residents in the west side of the city have had continuing disruption to water due to exceptionally high demand on supplies from Clifton Hill Reservoir.
"The public's co-operation in conserving water use, including not allowing taps to run continuously, would also greatly assist in allowing water levels to return to normal," it added.
The AA later said its patrols attended just under 4,000 breakdowns last week from motorists stranded in bitterly cold conditions - a 30pc increase on the previous week. Callouts in the ice-entrenched capital alone accounted for three quarters of total breakdown calls.
It said last Monday was the busiest day for AA patrols, with a breakdown call out every 30 seconds during rush hour.
Noel Keogh, head of AA Rescue, said severe night time temperatures during the week led to a slew of battery-related breakdowns and numerous cases of blown ignition fuses, flooded engines, frozen rear brakes, frozen or broken windscreen wipers, frozen locks and cars stuck in the snow.
"When temperatures plummet below freezing, most batteries will only function at about 50pc of their normal power," he said.
"If you have a weak battery chances are it'll pack up on you altogether when it's freezing out."
Elsewhere eircom confirmed there were more than 4,900 reported faults on its network, with both broadband and telephone services impacted.
"Close to 700 eircom field technicians continue to work nationwide to reach customers without service," said a spokesman.
"The areas with the highest fault levels are north Dublin city and county, as well as counties Wicklow, Carlow, Wexford, Laois and Meath."