Winter springs an icy surprise
Temperatures tumble in very cold but sunny spell
JUST when you thought it was safe to shed those heavier garments -- the big freeze is back with an icy blast.
Forecasters are predicting bitterly cold temperatures for this weekend, and warn that the second week of spring will feel more like the depths of winter.
Met Eireann warns we can expect a stretch of sub-zero temperatures overnight and brisk and moderately cold conditions for the next four or five days.
But on a sunnier note, forecasters say we are unlikely to see a repeat of the extreme conditions that paralysed much of the country last month. The freezing rain, sleet and show showers that led to treacherous driving conditions are not expected to return.
"It's going to be cold but not as cold or wintry as January," Met Eireann meteorologist Joan Blackburn said.
A high-pressure system moving in last night was expected to send temperatures plummeting to between -3C to -6C overnight in all areas.
Regions of the midlands and west are expected to see the lowest temperatures, while coastal areas will see temperatures hovering around zero.
Much of the same conditions are expected overnight tonight, tomorrow and Sunday night.
But we can at least look forward to a brief reprieve from the cold on Monday night when rain showers forecast for late Sunday or early Monday are expected to bring higher temperatures.
The warmer weather will be shortlived when clearer skies herald the return of colder weather on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But overall it will be mainly dry and sunny, albeit moderately cold during the day from today through the weekend and into early next week, with daytime temperatures ranging from 4C to 8C.
Met Eireann says there may be a few isolated showers in the North and along eastern coasts on Sunday or Monday.
There is also the possibility of some hail and snow flurries in some areas if temperatures remain low.
But with conditions remaining largely dry, the widespread snow and ice that wreaked havoc on the roads countrywide in the first part of January is not expected to return.
Drivers are nevertheless being urged to take extra care on the roads this weekend.
Widespread sharp to severe frost -- especially on higher ground -- could make driving hazardous and AA Roadwatch warned drivers last night to avoid driving between sunset and sunrise, especially on secondary roads or exposed surfaces, unless it is necessary.
Overnight and early-morning fog could also be widespread and drivers should use fog lights and dipped headlights.