MOTORISTS face chaos as most roads will remain ungritted when the big freeze returns over the coming days.
Due to rationing, councils that spread salt on regional and local roads during the previous Arctic snap have been ordered not to treat them this time, as fresh supplies have been delayed and won't arrive in time.
The 91,000km of regional and local roads account for 94pc of the network and carry more than half of the country's traffic.
But major roads, like motorways and dual carriageways, will be gritted.
The directive from the National Roads Authority ( NRA) to the local authorities raises the question of risk to motorists and pedestrians.
"Regional and local roads which had previously been treated may not be treated until additional supplies of salt arrive," the NRA said yesterday.
Road safety sources expressed alarm last night that so many roads would be left ungritted posing high crash risks.
The RSA also urged motorists to exercise caution in the expected snow and ice. "People should be particularly vigilant," said Mr Brett.
Councils were told they may not be able to salt these roads until fresh supplies arrive from Egypt and Morocco towards the end of next week.
In the meantime, they will have to reserve the remaining 15,000 tonnes of salt for the main national roads.
Met Eireann yesterday issued a severe weather alert, forecasting snow for most areas of the country over the next five days, with night-time temperatures falling as low as -10C and snowfalls of up to 10cm.
And temperatures during the daytime are not expected to rise above zero.
At a press briefing yesterday, the NRA said the local authorities had been requested to manage their available salt supplies prudently.
"This reflects the strategic importance of the national road network in catering for large volumes of traffic and providing access to all major centres of population."
The salt shipments from Egypt and Morocco had been due this weekend, but were delayed because of adverse weather in the Mediterranean.
Snow will affect parts of northern coastal counties, north and west Connacht and west Munster, with some snow showers coming inland and widespread ice forecast at night.
The RSA is encouraging the public to visit rsa.ie for advice and tips on dealing with the severe weather conditions.
Meanwhile, water rationing is to continue at night in the Dublin region.
However, the four Dublin councils are planning to delay the shutdown until 10pm on certain weekend nights to help restaurants and hotels overcome their difficulties.