Grit supplies won't run out for big freeze, vow councils
LOCAL authorities are insisting they have enough grit in stock to keep the country's road network accessible as Ireland braces itself for a bitterly cold snap.
Temperatures are set to plummet to as low as -5C tonight, and will stay below freezing after dark for at least a week.
Snow showers, ice and freezing fog have all been forecast for the coming days, and motorists are being advised to exercise extreme caution on the roads.
Snow was forecast for north Leinster and Ulster last night, while sleet was expected for Connacht and Munster. Forecasters at Met Eireann say the coming nights will feel bitterly cold, with lowest temperatures falling to between -3C and -5C, and possibly lower.
There is also a risk of severe frosts and icy patches on the roads. Through the weekend, snow showers are forecast for north Connacht, Donegal and parts of Leinster.
The extreme weather has prompted AA Roadwatch and the National Roads Authority to issue a warning to motorists to take care, especially in the mornings when frost, ice, freezing fog and even black ice are expected.
According to Dublin City Council about 300km of Dublin's road network will be treated with salt on nights when temperatures drop below 0C. A spokesman said winter maintenance crews would use in the region of 100 tonnes of salt on each of these nights. The local authority says it is well equipped to deal with another severe winter as it currently has about 1,850 tonnes of grit in stock -- an increase of 450 tonnes on last year.
Councils all over the country ran out of grit supplies during last year's cold snap leaving thousands of kilometres of local and regional roads in a treacherous condition.
Donegal County Council says its winter maintenance crews have been called out 15 times over the last number of weeks to grit icy roads. A spokesman said the Donegal local authority had 4,000 tonnes of rock salt in its stores two weeks ago, and had ordered in a further 650 tonnes this week to top up supplies.
A spokesman for Kildare County Council said it gritted in the region of 700km of its national and regional road network on Wednesday night in anticipation of the inclement weather.
Spokesman Charlie Talbot said: "We have in the region of 300 tonnes in stock and are expecting more in the coming days. We don't anticipate we will run out of salt this winter."
A spokeswoman for Wicklow County Council said it planned to grit national and regional roads in the county last night, but gritting operations for tonight and subsequent nights would be decided on the days in question. "Wicklow County Council always maintains sufficient stocks of grit and salt," the spokeswoman said.
The cold snap is the result of high pressure over Iceland and low pressure down south which is feeding cold air over Ireland. Temperatures over the weekend will barely creep over the zero mark and will range from only 0 to 2C on Sunday. Low temperatures, coupled with easterly winds will make it feel bitterly cold.
Cold comfort for global warming experts: Page 34