A MERE 3cm of snow brought swathes of the country to a standstill yesterday, with roads left ungritted, planes grounded and public transport cancelled.
Local authorities and transport chiefs were last night accused of not doing enough to help stranded motorists and people trapped in their homes because of the big freeze.
The situation is expected to get worse, with temperatures as low as minus 10C forecast last night, with the cold snap to last well into the new year.
Local authorities are running dangerously short of grit to keep roads ice-free. The National Roads Authority (NRA) said a delivery of 8,000 tonnes of salt would not be made until next Tuesday.
The NRA warned that roads would be closed unless the weather improves.
Thousands of journeys are expected to be disrupted this weekend as travellers attempt to return home from festive breaks.
New year's revellers were left stranded yesterday after bus services were cancelled and main roads rendered impassable. Other problems included:
Local authorities and the Department of the Environment were under pressure over the level of planning and resources that went into tackling the cold snap.
"Local authorities have left secondary roads and footpaths in poor condition -- I suspect it's an issue of resources," Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said.
"Some local authorities are in a serious position and relying on other counties to help them, and that's just not good enough.
"We're just not up to scratch. There just isn't planning in place and there's a lack of leadership; the Government seems to have fallen asleep."
But the Department of the Environment rejected the claim, saying city and county councils had adequate resources.
Local authorities also insisted that emergency teams swung into action yesterday to cope with the snowfall.
However, the NRA said that while all national routes were covered, salt supplies were running "dangerously low" and this could lead to road closures.
"They are getting in 8,000 tonnes of salt on Tuesday, but Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo are running low," spokesman Sean O'Neill said.
"Local authorities have already spread three times their average (amount of grit) at this time of year. If we have a prolonged winter, there will be problems."
Authorities in Co Donegal were said to have exhausted their estimated supply for the whole winter, while other areas had used up a two-month supply in the past 12 days.
And with supplies low, councils are concentrating on gritting national roads, leaving many rural dwellers as prisoners in their homes since before Christmas.
In the capital, Fingal County Council was gritting roads twice a day -- at 5am and 4pm -- and said it had sufficient amount of grit. Dublin City Council began gritting roads from 3.30am yesterday, but said that heavy snowfall meant some work had to be re-done.
But there was criticism that the Stillorgan dual-carriageway was dangerously icy from Montrose out to Dun Laoghaire because the council had not made it safe. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, which covers the area, insisted the worst-affected area of the road had been gritted four times.
The cold snap is expected to continue into the middle of next week, with Met Eireann last night saying the icy conditions could see temperatures plummet as low as minus 10C at night.
Forecaster Michael McAuliffe said the country was in the midst of an unusually long period of cold weather.
The RSA advised people not to travel unless absolutely necessary, while Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann said they could not say what services would operate today.
The Dublin Airport Authority said it could not say with "absolute certainty" that normal services would resume today.
Gardai and the AA advised against any unnecessary travel in Carlow, Laois, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Roscommon, Galway, Meath, Louth, Kildare, Dublin, Wexford and Wicklow due to the extremely poor driving conditions.