Nation braces itself for next flurry of snow-storm chaos
A SEVERE weather alert was issued last night as the country braced itself for major snowfalls of up to 10cm (4in).
Met Eireann forecast 2cm to 5cm of snow to fall today in eastern counties, from Louth down to Wexford.
There is also the danger of snow drifting due to strong easterly winds.
Bitterly cold icy conditions will prevail throughout the weekend, with winds blowing in off the Irish Sea maximising the chill factor.
Further snowfall is expected to hit Leinster and Munster tomorrow and Monday, with falls of 5cm to 10cm expected. The eastern and south-eastern counties are likely to be hardest hit.
Mercury levels plunged further to -12.4C, with the lowest official temperature during this cold spell recorded on Thursday night at Baldonnel Aerodrome in Dublin. It equalled its all-time lowest temperature recorded in January 1979.
The freezing temperatures are likely to continue until next weekend, but lowest figures next week be around -4C.
Householders have been urged to conserve water, and continue to be cautious on the roads with further heavy snow showers forecast.
Fresh falls of snow yesterday on top of already frosty roads left conditions treacherous. In particular, housing estates and footpaths were icy.
Traffic was light coming into the city early yesterday morning, with less cars on the roads and commuters using Dublin Bus, rail and the Luas.
AA Roadwatch reported treacherous conditions in a number of areas, including city centre bridges and Gardiner Street.
Salt levels continued to be one of the major concerns, as fears grew that roads may have to be closed throughout the region.
Some councils have described their salt supply situation as "critical". Kilkenny County Council sent six trucks to a salt distribution centre in Limerick yesterday to pick up new supplies while South Tipperary County Council was counting on fresh deliveries from the north.
The N11 was described as "treacherous" in parts of Co Wexford, particularly at Enniscorthy and Camolin, with motorists advised to avoid the route if possible, while Bunclody experienced fresh snowfalls yesterday morning.
Water conservation remains a major concern in the region, with householders in Co Meath warned that excessive usage may lead to water shortages.
Meath County Council appealed to the public to alert them about leaks and burst pipes. Drivers were urged to take care as the N2 in Meath remained icy, while motorists also had to contend with fog in the region.
People have also been urged to check the weather forecast before undertaking journeys, with heavy snowfalls forecast for eastern areas.
The Army has been deployed to Leitrim to aid the council's staff with the mammoth gritting operation under way.
The county council confirmed it was accepting the Defence Forces' offer of help gritting footpaths in towns, villages and rural areas from today. The council has adequate salt supplies for four to five days.
Motorists were urged to take extreme care, amid plunging temperatures, on the N16 route, the N4/Dublin road at Sligo and N3 in Cavan.
Local authorities are facing increased demands for water while some residents have been left with no water supply. Most of Clare County Council's water treatment plants are at or near full production capacity.
In Limerick city, frozen and burst water mains led to a full interruption in supply for some homeowners. Limerick City Council issued water at various collection points yesterday for customers who had no supply. Water supplies were turned off in most areas of Mullingar and Athlone overnight.
The mammoth gritting operation is expected to cost Galway City Council €500,000.
Water supplies in Galway city may be restricted as temperatures plummet this weekend. Worst roads yesterday were the N5 at Frenchpark and the R294 Boyle-Gurteen route where black ice was responsible for several incidents.
In Mayo, county secretary John Condon warned that supplies of grit were running out. The Westport to Louisburgh road (R335) in the county was particularly dangerous.
SOUTH AND SOUTH-WEST
Motorists in Cork and Kerry were urged to cancel all unnecessary travel as the south-west is set to suffer its worst snow and ice of the cold snap this weekend. Heavy snowfalls are forecast for widespread parts of Munster with temperatures in north Cork, south Tipperary and west Waterford expected to drop to -10C.
Ice again caused havoc on roads with transport services outside the major cities and towns severely hit. Bus services between Cork and Killarney-Tralee had to be curtailed.
Cork councils warned that with grit and salt supplies running low, treatment priority was being given to main routes. Gardai urged commuters to postpone all unnecessary travel.