Motorists and householders put on alert as big freeze strikes
GET the winter woollies out -- the big freeze is back with a vengeance.
Householders and motorists yesterday endured wintry conditions as this year's cold snap took hold across the country.
But delighted children took to the fields and streets to throw snowballs and make the most of the cold weather.
And it looks set to get worse for the next few days, as temperatures plummet to as low as -5C overnight at the weekend and snow covers crucial roads.
Ulster and Connacht were the first to bear the brunt of the cold snap yesterday, which saw wintry showers and temperatures of between 0 and -3 degrees with widespread severe frost and ice.
Areas such as Monaghan and Galway were covered with a blanket of snow, which left road temperatures below zero on the N2 in Co Monaghan.
The Sally Gap in Co Wicklow was left impassable due to icy conditions and motorists were advised to avoid the area.
Snowfalls around Letterkenny and Glenties in Co Donegal caused wet and slippery conditions for motorists, and there were also reports of snow around Dunmore in Co Galway, and sleet showers around Ballymote in Co Sligo.
Parts of counties Mayo and Galway experienced heavy snowfalls for several hours and driving conditions began to deteriorate on many roads in the two counties.
Forecasters have insisted that today will start off with further snow showers, mainly across the north and east of the country.
Wintry showers will return to western areas later in the day and it will be bitterly cold -- with highest temperatures just 1 to 3 degrees.
Tonight will be extremely cold with widespread severe frost and icy stretches on roads.
Most places will be dry. However, wintry showers of sleet and snow will affect coastal counties of Leinster, Ulster and north Connacht.
The showers in these areas will continue on Sunday and they will mainly fall as rain or sleet along the coast, but as snow further inland.
Daytime temperatures will only reach between 0 and 2 degrees and there'll be another severe frost on Sunday night.
Last night, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) urged drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to be extra vigilant.
The RSA said that people should watch out for black ice, use dipped headlights, leave plenty of space to brake and be prepared for breakdowns.
The Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) also advised householders on steps to take to minimise the risk of damage from burst pipes.
"In January this year, freezing weather conditions caused unprecedented damage to homes and businesses, so we are urging householders and business owners to take precautionary steps to avoid freeze-related property damage," said Michael Horan of the IIF said.
Age Action Ireland said that the freezing conditions posed a real challenge for some older people. It urged the public to keep in contact with their older neighbours during the cold snap.
And the organisation said that older people should also take basic steps to protect themselves and ensure they remain well and warm in their homes,
"It is important that everyone plays their part to ensure that those who are frail or house-bound remain safe and well over this period," Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said.