Elderly warned to stay in as big freeze lingers
THE elderly were warned yesterday that it is too early for them to walk on frozen footpaths, with many suffering fractures from falls after venturing out as heavy snowfalls ended to be replaced by "extreme" freezing conditions, expected to remain over the next few nights.
As the country shivered into another day of icy conditions, Gerald Fleming of Met Eireann said Ireland has seen the "last of significant snow falls."
However, he warned that the threat of ice is still there and temperatures of -8C could be experienced in different areas of the country over the next few days.
He said most of the country has seen the last of the snow but he warned that ice, including black ice on the roads, would be slow to clear. However, from Wednesday onwards there should be "an accelerated thaw".
The briefing in Dublin heard that the centre of the country is still badly affected by icy conditions, and while there is a thaw in the east and coastal areas, many secondary roads are still dangerous.
The danger of the icy conditions, particularly on the footpaths, was emphasised by Gavin Maguire of the HSE, who urged people to look in on their elderly neighbours, make sure they were supplied with food and to clear the footpaths in front of their houses.
He said hospital A&E departments were busy over the last 24 hours, with many people suffering fractures from falling on icy footpaths.
He said he would be concerned that because of the thaw in the east the elderly were venturing out to get food, but he said it was too early for the elderly and infirm to walk on footpaths.
"If an elderly person suffers a fracture after falling on ice it can be more complex. It can also be a life-changing experience," he warned.
He said the situation from falls was not as bad as last January, but a number of hospitals, including Beaumont in Dublin, had to open more operating theatres yesterday to deal with fractures.
"It is something of a false dawn in the east, we are going to get extreme heavy freezing in the next few nights," he said.
Transport networks, including buses, trains, Luas, and airports, were largely operating as normal, a meeting of the Government's co-ordinating committee heard, but people were urged to check www.transport.ie
Andrew McLindon of Bus Eireann said the vast majority of services were operating nationally.
Road passenger services still affected by weather and road conditions include some services in the east, north east and south.
People were urged to check their website, www.buseireann.ie, for the latest update.
Dublin Bus was operating a full service, with curtailments and diversions on some routes, while the Nitelink again did not operate last night.
On the Luas, the Red Line was operating a full service in both directions between Tallaght and The Point stops, while only Luas Connolly stop remained closed; and the Luas Green Line was also operating a full service in both directions between St Stephen's Green and Brides Glen stops.
Apart from a mechanical problem on the Galway train at Heuston, Irish Rail services, including Intercity, DART and Commuter routes -- except M3 Parkway to Clonsilla -- were operating with minor delays.
Sean O'Neill of the National Roads Authority said national supplies of salt were being maintained, with 30,000 tonnes in reserve, while local authorities were using a 50/50 salt/grit mix.
Meanwhile, Dublin City council said they appreciated people removing snow from outside homes and businesses -- but warned smokers who stand outside pubs and other buildings of the dangers of heavy volumes of snow sliding off roofs suddenly and quickly because of the thaw, creating a potential hazard.
Oil companies admitted they are struggling to get fuel supplies to householders due to huge demand and dangerous roads.
The warning came as roads on upland parts of Munster remain virtually inaccessible due to ice and snow, which has built-up over the past week. Worst hit were parts of Waterford, north Tipperary, south Limerick and north and west Cork.
Wicklow County Council enlisted the help of Army personnel to clear footpaths in Blessington town, while water supplies in some areas will be turned off at night time.
In Donegal, there were dozens of minor collisions and three county council gritters went off the road while trying to spread grit.
Gardai also warned of black ice, asking motorists not to take unnecessary journeys, while they urged pedestrians to avoid walking on the road and to wear high-vis jackets.