STORM-weary householders have been warned to brace themselves for freezing temperatures before a third Atlantic gale strikes Ireland in the space of 10 days.
Storm Darwin will strike the southern parts of Ireland from early tomorrow morning amid forecasts its winds could gust as high as 140kph.
The weather front – emerging from the so-called 'storm factory' in the mid Atlantic – will strike Ireland before impacting on north Wales and northern England.
Experts said that while it was hoped the storm would glance off south-western areas, it has the potential to be one of the most damaging storms of the year so far.
Last night saw snowfalls in a number of areas across the country.
Met Eireann has issued two weather warnings this morning - an 'orange' snow-ice warning for Donegal, and a 'yellow' snow-ice warning for Connacht, Longford, Westmeath, Cavan and Monaghan.
And snow is forecast for some parts of the country today - including the Midlands and West.
A Met Eireann forecaster said it would be “Cold and frosty this morning with icy patches on many roads at first. The day will bring some sunny periods but wintry showers of rain and hail also, falling as snow in many parts”.
Showers would become isolated after dark as temperatures fall close to zero and frost returns, “together with a renewed risk of icy roads”.
But the new storm will bring yet more torrential rainfall – with Met Eireann again expressing concern that swollen rivers won't be able to cope with further downpours.
The Shannon, Barrow, Blackwater, Lee, Barrow, Suir, Nore and Slaney are now being monitored on an hourly basis.
However, the threat of coastal flooding has eased with falling tides, though people have been urged to exercise maximum care in exposed areas given the danger posed by winds and freak waves.
The ESB is also carefully monitoring water levels on its reservoirs amid mounting concern over the impact torrential rainfall will have on river systems.
The Government has now been urged to create a special 'Flood Fund' to protect the 100,000 Irish families who cannot secure flood insurance.
The call came as the Government's special €25m relief package was described as "a drop in the ocean" compared to the €100m-€200m flood-related losses now facing Irish householders.
Cork and Limerick alone suffered more than €50m worth of damage in the space of 36 hours last week.
Now, insurance industry official, Jonathan Hehir of Insuremyhouse.ie, said the sector needs a government-led scheme similar to the Motor Fund, which protects those hit by uninsured drivers.
Insurance experts have argued that the 'Flood Fund' could be financed out of the massive insurance levies that have been collected by the State over the past 20 years and are presently pegged at 5pc of all insurance premiums.
In Cork alone, more than half the traders affected by last week's disastrous tidal flooding have no flood insurance because of historic claims.
In areas such as Oliver Plunkett St and Blackpool, it is impossible to secure flood cover.
"Insurance is based on the principle where a group of people pool their resources to fund the losses of an unfortunate few," Mr Hehir said.
"The same principle applies to central taxation, where a proportion of the wealth of many is transferred to those less well-off – so the Government simply cannot wash its hands in this case and say that there is no precedent for assisting those with flooded homes and businesses."
Office of Public Works Minister Brian Hayes has already warned that such an insurance scheme would be impracticable.
Meanwhile, Clare Co Council has been forced to close a section of road that was damaged during the recent storms after locals removed concrete bollards to allow access.
The R487 is the primary access to the Loop Head lighthouse and many areas of the peninsula and the main road through the village of Kilbaha.
Clare County Council closed a 20-metre section of the road following last week's storms, but local residents believe one lane could remain open without compromising safety.
Local resident Ailish Connolly said: "For community access this road is absolutely essential. The road was opened at the weekend but the council have closed it again. We had ambulances down here over Christmas but what if we need and ambulance, the fire brigade or a doctor now? I'm not an engineer but I believe that one lane of this very important road could be reopened with compromising safety."
Clare County Council said it had no alternative to closing the road.
"The Kilrush Area Office closed the road on . . . (February 1) in the immediate aftermath of Storm Bridget to safeguard the wellbeing of the general public and motorists. Bollards were put in place to provide pedestrian access along the seafront.
"An alternative route has been put in place to provide access to the Loop Head Peninsula west of Kilbaha. The road in Kilbaha was extensively damaged by Storms Christine and Bridget," the council added.