Slow thaw on the way after wintry weekend
Airports, buses and Luas all fall victim to icy weather
A slow thaw is on the way -- and not a moment too soon as the country ground to a halt with plummeting temperatures last night.
Airports were shut down and public transport services cancelled as the country continued to cope with record- breaking low temperatures, expected to hit -13C in some parts last night.
An elderly man found dead outside his home in Co Mayo early yesterday was believed to have become the third victim of the sub-zero temperatures.
Tom Connolly, a pensioner in his 70s, was found by a relative outside his front door at Lui Na Greine in Claremorris at around 10.30am yesterday.
The pensioner was socialising on Wednesday night and was left home by a taxi at 9pm.
Met Eireann said that temperatures were expected to rise over the weekend. But forecaster Gerard Fleming warned next week would also be cold.
"We expect snow in the east on Friday, with rain in the west. We can expect a slow thaw over the weekend but once the sun goes down the temperature will fall rapidly," he told the Irish Independent.
"The west should be free of ice over the weekend. But temperatures will be -4C in the east.
"We expect to see a gradual thaw over the next week but Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will be cold."
The Defence Forces have deployed more than 500 soldiers and 100 vehicles to help civil authorities, with Air Corps helicopters on standby.
In another day of drama across the country:
- Dublin Airport was closed for much of the day, reopening at 6.40pm. Regional airports were also affected.
- Bus services were cancelled or curtailed, while Luas services stopped in the afternoon because of technical problems. Trains were delayed. Dublin Bus services stopped at 9pm last night.
- The HSE warned of a spike in the number of children presenting at emergency rooms with injuries.
- Oil companies in the south warned they were struggling to get to householders in rural areas. There is a four-day waiting list in some parts of Cork.
- The Irish Farmers' Association urged local authorities to supply salt to treat roads, saying that dairy farmers were worried about getting fodder to livestock.
- Pleas for householders to conserve water were made in Wicklow, Leitrim, Donegal and Dublin.
- Some 4,000 homes in Tullamore, Co Offaly, and Limerick were without power after a lightning strike.
- Salt is being sourced from Egypt and Turkey to keep the roads open.
- Gardai appealed to the public to check on elderly neighbours.
Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday pledged to provide an extra €15m to local authorities who have seen their finances stretched by the cold snap. The money will be allocated to councils worst-hit by the crisis, which are facing overtime bills.
However, the Government has admitted there will not be enough salt to keep all roads open.
"The plan is to ensure priority routes that are necessary to keep the country going, commercially and otherwise, are salted and kept open," Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said.
"That is the absolute priority. Anything over and above that is extra. The bad weather spell is due to start abating on Wednesday of next week so there are adequate salt supplies to cover us."
Defence Minister Tony Killeen added that farmers and community groups could be given grit to spread, and that no liability would arise provided the material was delivered, stored and used in a safe manner.
His comments came after the opposition claimed a national plan with a built-in annual budget was the only way for local authorities and other agencies to properly plan ahead and prepare for extreme weather events.
All Luas services were cancelled yesterday afternoon because of compacted ice and snow. Maintenance crews were working to clear the lines.