THE late winter icy grip is set to continue until at least Easter Monday as tens of thousands of holidaymakers get ready to hit the roads this weekend.
Night-time temperatures will tumble to as low as minus -5C and widespread sharp frosts are expected across the country.
The Department of Transport said it is monitoring the situation closely. It urged the public to check weather bulletins before setting out on their journeys and to heed the advice of the Road Safety Authority and gardai.
And while it will remain bitingly cold, with temperatures well below normal for this time of year, the snow showers of recent days will increasingly turn to rain and sleet later today.
Met Eireann issued weather warnings for snow and ice for the eastern half of the country which will continue into this morning's rush hour. The worst affected areas are Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Meath, where an orange warning was in effect, the second highest warning level.
Up to 3cm of snow fell in Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Wexford, Offaly, Westmeath and Monaghan.
While the cold weather is being experienced countrywide, the snow showers are largely confined to the eastern half of the country and the north.
An Air Corps helicopter was on standby in Baldonnel to offer assistance to farmers and rural residents in Northern Ireland which has seen the worst of the snow.
Met Eireann said the low temperatures will continue through the weekend and into Easter Monday and that while daytime values may recover somewhat, it will be very cold by night with sharp frosts.
This time last year the country was basking in unseasonably mild temperatures of just over 20C – almost breaking a 47-year record for March.
However, the current picture couldn't be more different and bookmaker Paddy Power is even offering odds of 6/4 of Dubliners waking up to a white Easter on Sunday.
"Normal temperatures for March into April would have an average maximum of 8C to 12C, but over the last few days it's been 3C to 5C so that's well below normal," said forecaster David Rogers.
He said temperatures could fall to as low as -4C or -5C tonight. And while there will be a slight improvement of 1C to 2C over the Easter weekend, it will still be well below normal.
Heavy snow showers caused problems for motorists across Leinster yesterday. There were diversions on some Dublin Bus routes in Enniskerry, Glencullen and Kilternan while there were some delays to departing flights at Dublin Airport.
In Wicklow, drivers had to take extreme care on higher routes and the Sally Gap and Wicklow Gap were both impassable due to snow.