Wednesday 23 May 2018

Storm Emma: Serious fears of 'threat to life' as 7ft snow drifts hit and Status Red warning extended

  • Red alert now issued for Dublin, Kildare, Wexford, Wicklow and Meath
  • Orange alert issued to Munster, Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Offaly, Westmeath, Cavan, Monaghan and Galway
  • 'Conveyor belt' of snow and sleet will continue to batter the east tonight
  • Gardaí plead with people to stay off the roads; "You are putting people's lives at risk"
  • Some schools may not reopen on Monday
  • Thousands without power, water and broadband
  • Major public transport disruption to continue into tomorrow
  • Aer Lingus cancels wave of 50 flights from Dublin Airport
  • Irish Rail suspends all services until at least noon tomorrow
  • 'It will be very difficult to provide detail on the thawing of snow' - Met Éireann
  • ESB working through challenging conditions to restore power to 26,000 customers
Some scenes from around the country after Storm Emma hit Ireland
Some scenes from around the country after Storm Emma hit Ireland

Sean Nolan, Denise Calnan and Kevin Doyle

Serious fears have emerged about a threat to life in the south east of the country tonight amid 7ft snow drifts.

A "conveyor belt" of snow and sleet will continue batter the east of the country tonight, leading to fresh calls for people to avoid travel.

Wexford is particularly badly hit with reports of snow drifts up to 7ft and power outages for 25,000 homes.

Met Eireann's Evelyn Cusack said snow is "piling up" in large areas along the east coast.

People try to dig out an ambulance which got stuck in the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers
People try to dig out an ambulance which got stuck in the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers

Gardaí have pleaded with people to stay off the roads this evening and said; "You are putting people's lives at risk if you drive on the roads."

Meanwhile, the ongoing Status Red warning has been extended until tomorrow morning.

The warning applies to Dublin, Kildare, Wexford, Wicklow and Meath and will remain in place until 9am, Saturday morning.

It reads; "Snow accumulations continuing to increase significantly due to further heavy falls of snow."

Speaking on RTE News earlier, forecaster Gerry Murphy said; "The storm happened as it was forecast, but perhaps some people got the impression it was all going to happen overnight, but it happened overnight and today, and it is continuing to happen."

Meanwhile, forecasters have issued a Status Orange alert to Munster, Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Offaly, Westmeath, Cavan, Monaghan and Galway.

Therese Eagers digs a pathway through the snow in her back garden in Rathcoole. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Therese Eagers digs a pathway through the snow in her back garden in Rathcoole. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Sallins Friday morning (Picture: James Lawless)
Donadea Co Kildare (Picture: David Irwan)
Sallins (Picture: James Lawless)
James and Gemma Kavanagh practice their snow angels on Main street, Arklow, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Garry O'Neill
Snow drifts on the Fagan Farm in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath. Photo: John Fagan
Rathcoole on Friday morning Picture: Eileen Mooney
Sallins Friday morning (picture: James Lawless)
Very heavy snow in Kilmuckridge Co.Wexford. Photo: Derek Vaughan
Photos of snow drift on roads Kildare this morning Photo: Niall Sargent
Walkers in the snow on the Curragh in Co Kildare: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Blessington in Co Wicklow. Photo: Teresa Nagle
Blessington in Co Wicklow. Photo: Teresa Nagle
Wexford main street. Photo: Joey Cleary
Snowed in road in Donadea Co. Kildare. Photo: Gillian Flynn
Footpaths are cleared in Kildare Town, Co Kildare: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The alert remains in place from 4pm on Friday until 9am, Saturday.

It reads; "Snow accumulations continuing to increase due to further falls of snow."

The M1 Motorway at the Dublin Airport flyover. Pic Steve Humphreys
The M1 Motorway at the Dublin Airport flyover. Pic Steve Humphreys

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Murphy said the snow could turn into rain and sleet in the south later tonight. He added that the warnings may be updated again later tonight.

"The red warning is still in operation tonight. The snow will be most substantial in the eastern counties," he said.

A JCB clears the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 2/3/2018
A JCB clears the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 2/3/2018

"In terms of the orange counties, there are further accumulations of snow expected, we haven't specifically said, it will just be lesser than the east coast, it's not quite red. Later on in the south, the snow may even turn into rain.

"There will be lesser amounts of snow then in Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal, in the form of just snow showers.

"Tonight, the whole scenario of snow is continuing overnight. The warning may be updated during the night again," he continued.

"This is our best assessment at the moment. Towards the end of the night, the southern counties' snow may turn into rain and sleet at this stage. It's a reflection that the heavier precipitation is along the east coast.

"The warnings we issue will have an impact on the decision-making at Transport Infrastructure Ireland and in the local authorities.

Very heavy snow in Kilmuckridge Co.Wexford. Photo: Derek Vaughan
Very heavy snow in Kilmuckridge Co.Wexford. Photo: Derek Vaughan

"It will have knock-on effects in terms of the decisions made."

Sean Hogan from the National Emergency Coordination Group said it is "an extraordinary weather event by any measure".

He described the weather event as "ongoing".

"The message remains about not making unnecessary travel," he said, adding that roads should be reserved for people providing essential services.

Warning

He also warned that the number of customers without electricity could deteriorate throughout the night.

Evelyn Cusack from Met Eireann said that it will be very difficult to provide detail on the thawing of snow.

She said snow in eastern areas may turn to "sleeting snow" throughout the day.

If it turns to rain, she said this will be bad news as it could lead to flooding.

Snow this morning in Coollattin Co. Wicklow. Photo: Bill Nolan
Snow this morning in Coollattin Co. Wicklow. Photo: Bill Nolan

A spokesman from the OPW has advised members of the public and farmers to steer clear of rivers.

He said a high-tide warning remains in place until Monday.

Meanwhile, a HSE spokesman has told the NECG meeting that people "are going to suffer trips, slips and falls as the snow begins to thaw" and is urging people to visit their elderly neighbours.

He has urged people who fear they've suffered a fracture to attend an injury clinic, rather than Emergency Departments, as there will be significant backlogs in hospitals throughout the coming days.

Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid said: "An Garda Siochana is strongly advising people to keep off the road. A number of routes remain impassable. These are challenging times for the emergency services.

"You are putting those people's lives at risk if you drive on the roads. If it's absolutely essential to travel, please plan and ensure you can safely reach your destination.

"Bring water and warm clothing. Ensure you have a phone and tell someone where you are going.

"Continue to keep in touch with neighbours. Avoid areas prone to flooding. Both coastal and rivers are more dangerous at this time. "

This evening, Aer Lingus has cancelled more than 50 flights from Dublin Airport for Saturday as weather continues to wreak havoc with schedules.

The airline had planned for a return to full operations after suspending all flights Friday, but has now cancelled over 50 flights on Saturday morning.

"Our Dublin short-haul flight schedule on Saturday will be disrupted with early morning flights cancelled and most operations not commencing until after 10am," it says.

Ryanair said they currently plan to return to operations at all Irish airports, but they do expect further disruptions.

A spokesperson said; "Ryanair currently plans to return to operations at all Irish airports on Saturday, 3rd March while remaining in close contact with the airports and the emergency authorities. We recommend customers check the status of their flight at Ryanair.com before making their way to the airport.

"Based on the latest weather warnings in place for Ireland until Saturday morning, Ryanair expects some further disruptions tomorrow morning and has had to cancel a number of flights to/from Dublin airport.

"All affected customers have already been notified of their options by email and SMS text message and should avoid traveling to the airport. 

"Affected passengers will be informed by SMS and email, but anyone flying should check the status of their service before leaving for the airport."

Cut-off

A number of communities are likely to be cut off for days as emergency crews deal with massive accumulations of snow.

Sean Hogan said: "The snow drifting which has occurred is going to pose particular problems.

"Snow drifts will require huge additional effort to identify and get access to isolated communities," he said, adding that people should "keep away from rivers as snow begins to melt as emergency services will take longer in their response.

"Local roads will take a considerable period of time and will be very difficult. Individual houses may be inaccessible," he added.

Some of the worst affected towns and villages are in Wexford, Waterford, south Carlow, Wicklow, Meath and Louth.

Hundreds of motorists had to be dug out of snow drifts last night by emergency workers after become stranded.

A number of ambulances and fire tenders also became stuck in the snow overnight.

In recent days the Defence Forces dealt with 81 individual call-outs, while the Coast Guard assisted in 400 incidents.

Dublin Fire Brigade has reported being called to a string of domestic fire incidents.

A spokesman said some were "significant fires but there was no loss of life".

Schools and colleges remain closed today and not all may reopen on Monday.

A Department of Education spokesperson said the situation was being monitored and they expected to be in a better position on Saturday about the position for Monday.

James Gray, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Tallaght Hospital, told RTE Radio One that no patients presented with hypothermia last night.

"We've had trauma and snow-related injuries. Yesterday, a number of patients injured their shoulder after trying to remove snow using shovels. There were some trips and falls and a few back fractures. We had one case of borderline hypothermia from people wandering around without socks at night. Overall, it is under control."

Meanwhile, Dublin Bus expects to return to service in the morning, though disruption is expected to some routes and diversions may be in place.

Dublin Bus is checking routes at the moment and is expected to return to service tomorrow once heavy snowfall doesn't occur tomorrow.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said getting drivers to work may be the problem.

Some of Bus Eireann's Expressway services may also resume tomorrow.

Irish Rail have suspended all services until at least noon tomorrow.

 

James and Gemma Kavanagh practice their snow angels on Main street, Arklow, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Garry O'Neill
James and Gemma Kavanagh practice their snow angels on Main street, Arklow, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Garry O'Neill

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