Extra grit arrives as cold snap to last until at least end of the week
THOUSANDS of tonnes of grit will arrive at a port today for collection by local authorities who are anxious to make roads safe for motorists in the cold snap.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) said the prolonged freezing weather has resulted in two-thirds of the season's supply of grit being used, and it warned that supplies were at critically low levels in some parts of the country.
This morning, trucks from local authorities will line the dock quayside in Cork to take delivery of up to 6,000 tonnes of grit sourced from England and Spain.
Another 6,000 tonnes will arrive in Limerick tomorrow to serve the west and midlands, with more coming by road from Antrim.
There was further disruption yesterday, with water supplies to homes in Westmeath cut off and parts of the N7 in Kildare closed because of freezing conditions.
The HSE reported a surge in the number of people seeking treatment for broken bones after slips and falls, while bus services continued to be restricted in Dublin.
Met Eireann said there was no signs of the cold snap ending, and that some areas would "struggle" to reach temperatures above zero over the coming week -- even during the day.
"There's no let up on the cold spell," forecaster Michael McAuliffe said. "Some areas might struggle to reach zero and there's the possibility of snowfall everywhere. There's going to be ongoing problems with fog and frost and it looks like there's going to be no let-up before next weekend.
"Temperatures will fall to as low as -5C, and up in -15C in the odd hollow. You'd probably have to go back 30 or 40 years to see a prolonged cold spell like this."
Around 19,300 tonnes of rocksalt and grit will be delivered by the end of next week to help make roads safe, particularly in counties Sligo, Roscommon and Cork.
NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill said that up to €13m could be spent gritting roads and that more money may be required, particularly for local and secondary roads.
"Two of our operations people are co-ordinating with local authorities to distribute the grit on the basis of need," he said.
"About €10m was allocated for the season and an additional €3m was made available six weeks ago. There's no additional budgetary requirements at this stage for the national routes, but there may be a need for extra money for the local and secondary roads.
"These roads will need more gritting but we're confident there's enough for the national routes. If we weren't doing what we're doing the country would be shut down," he added.
The HSE added that accident and emergency units had been very busy, particularly in Cork.
"There have been extra orthopaedic theatre sessions because of a lot of breaks and fractures," a spokeswoman said.
"Many hospitals are reporting that they're very busy. In most cases, the existing staff are covering it. The workload would certainly be busier than expected. For example, Cork University Hospital had four times as many theatre sessions in the week between Christmas Day and New Year's as usual."
Last night, Kerry TD Jackie Healy-Rae called on the Government to extend the Christmas break for schools in the light of the "unprecedented bad weather".
The country's 4,000 schools are due to re-open on Thursday but the cold spell is expected to continue until next weekend.