Drivers warned to reduce speed and take care as Arctic chill to push mercury below -5C
The country is bracing itself for an Arctic blast that could bring snow, ice and freezing temperatures as a polar front from Iceland settles over the country later this week.
Drivers are being warned to reduce their speed as extreme winter conditions are expected to hit Ireland late tomorrow.
Met Éireann forecaster Deirdre Lowe said the front from Iceland would bring hail, sleet and snow showers to the north and north-west by tomorrow night that would see overnight temperatures plummet to as low as -5C in some areas.
By Thursday, daytime temperatures would not exceed single digits - a pattern that was expected to last through the weekend before warming early next week, she said.
Along with frigid temperatures and bitterly cold winds giving blizzard-like conditions, significant snowfalls are expected in the north and north-west.
However, "all parts" of the country "are at risk" of accumulations of between 3cm and 5cm and more on higher ground.
But this "nasty snap of weather" would not be anything like the deep freeze that led to more than a dozen deaths on the continent at the weekend due to sub-zero temperatures, she said.
Dublin Airport was "ready to rock" with a large contingent of snow-clearing equipment, said spokeswoman Siobhán O'Donnell.
"Our snow and ice equipment is rolled out and placed in strategic locations on the airfield should the snow arrive."
The airport also has 230 contractors on stand-by for snow and ice removal if needed.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland has stockpiled more than 203,500 tonnes of salt, which has been "strategically" distributed to local authorities around the country should it be needed to salt roads and footpaths.
"Local authorities have winter maintenance plans in place for the coming winter, aimed at keeping our national and strategic routes open should severe weather occur," a spokesman said.
Local authorities have also developed their own winter emergency contingency plans.
Local councils in Donegal, Galway and Cork, which could be in the crossfire of the wintry blast, said they were prepared with supplies of salt and snow-removal equipment.
But Dublin City Council, which came under fire for being unprepared to deal with ice-covered roads and footpaths that brought the capital to a standstill in 2010/11, was unable to say what contingency plans it had in place by the time of going to print last night.
But the Office of Emergency Planning said it was ready to convene its National Emergency Co-ordination Group with every local authority if the situation warranted it. But that would only be in the event of an extreme weather emergency.