Thursday 30 October 2014

Snow brings chaos, absenteeism and fun

Motorists warned to take care on the roads as further snowfalls forecast

Jason O'Brien, Conor Kane, Ralph Riegel and Stephen O'Farrell

Published 03/02/2009 | 00:00

Heavy traffic on the Naas Road in Dublin yesterday evening was made even worse when a lorry jackknifed
Zoe Kinsella (14) from Stepaside, Co Dublin, enjoys the snow in the Dublin Mountains
Seminarians from the Legionaries of Christ join in the fun before attending Mass in Leopardstown

Widespread disruption to road and air traffic, the closure of dozens of schools and a high rate of work absenteeism is set to continue today.

Sub-zero temperatures and snowfalls in parts of the country -- and Britain's heaviest snowfalls in 18 years -- led to a large number of flight cancellations and to long delays for motorists struggling to cope with the conditions.

Even more of Ireland is set to wake up under a white blanket this morning after Met Eireann issued a severe weather warning, predicting up to eight centimetres of snow in some areas.

The combination of snow, slush and freezing temperatures overnight is expected to make driving treacherous, particularly in Leinster, east Munster and Ulster.

Commuters faced massive tailbacks last night with rush hour bringing traffic to a standstill as gardai implemented road restrictions across the country.

Road gritters were also out in force in Dublin and surrounding areas as temperatures once again plummeted below zero.

Delays

Frustrated commuters endured massive delays on the Naas Road (N7) as trucks and other large vehicles struggled to get up the hill near The Poitin Still, blocking three lanes and causing major tailbacks.

Motorists also experienced delays on the same road heading inbound after a truck jack-knifed and blocked two lanes.

Outbound traffic at the M50 exits of Liffey Valley and Lucan also suffered huge tailbacks.

"With temperatures falling to between zero and minus three tonight and a frost forming before we get more snow in much of the country, the roads will be very dangerous tomorrow," Met Eireann forecaster Emily Gleeson said.

"People should be very wary."

AA Roadwatch urged people to use their vehicles only if absolutely necessary.

A study yesterday from Peninsula Ireland, the employment firm, meanwhile, found that 9pc of employees took the day off yesterday due to the conditions while 43pc were late for work. Dozens of primary and post-primary schools failed to open.

The east and the midlands bore the brunt of the cold weather, with areas of Wicklow, Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Carlow and Kilkenny particularly badly affected, and a large number of minor accidents reported across the region.



Penetrating

But Met Eireann warned more of Ireland would be caught up in the wintry conditions today with between three and eight centimetres of snow expected to in most areas overnight, after a widespread penetrating frost. And only the south-west is expected to escape as this weather system continues through to the weekend.

The severe conditions led to travel chaos for many passengers attempting to fly to London from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast airports yesterday.

Aer Lingus passengers were among the worst affected as Heathrow closed for much of the day. The airline had to cancel all 13 flights to the airport from Dublin along with 11 inbound from Heathrow.

A number of Ryanair flights to Stansted were also cancelled, while passengers also experienced cancellations and delays for flights to Gatwick, Milan and Paris, and on other carriers such as bmi and flyBe

Two Aer Lingus flights to Heathrow this morning had already been cancelled by yesterday afternoon, with forecasters in Britain predicting more extreme weather there. Airlines have urged customers to log onto their websites for details about flights and refunds.

An Irish Swift sailing to Holyhead from Dublin yesterday afternoon was also cancelled, while a number of Bus Eireann services in the east of the country were affected. Dart services were suspended between Bray and Greystones, Co Wicklow after a rock fall close to the entrance of the first tunnel on Bray Head.

Commuters in Wicklow, Meath and Kildare were the most-seriously affected by the weather as the Sally Gap and whole areas of the Wicklow mountains became impassable. Motorists in Slane and Summerhill were forced to abandon their cars because they couldn't travel up hills.

In Kildare, commuters reported that a 12-mile journey between Naas and Blackwood took almost three hours, while the M7/M9 motorway was partly under ice and roads in Carlow and Kilkenny were also hit.

There were a number of minor crashes in Cork because of black ice, while in south Tipperary, all but one of the bridges closed in Clonmel as a result of the weekend flooding were re-opened.

In Donegal, the council's full fleet of 24 salters, with attached snow ploughs, were gritting all day and remained on call last night as the north-west braced itself for more snow.

The conditions contributed to the high rate of absenteeism experienced by businesses.

Alan Price of Peninsula said: "Ireland has been hit by the blizzards which are set to get worse and employees are struggling to make it into work.

"With major disruption on the roads and icy streets, it is inevitable that workers are going to struggle to make it in, if at all."

But it wasn't all bad news. Schoolchildren in the east took advantage of an unscheduled day off to go tobogganing, while a group of seminarians were pictured throwing snowballs before Mass in Leopardstown.

Severe conditions elsewhere drew an appeal from elderly groups to keep in contact with their older neighbours.

Neighbours

"We are reminding people to call in on their older neighbours to ensure they have enough fuel and basics such as milk and bread," said Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins.

"Older people can also play their part by keeping in telephone contact with each other and with their family and neighbours."

In its monthly report for January, Met Eireann said it was the coldest start to the year since 2001, while it was the coldest January at Cork Airport since 1997.

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