Travel plans in chaos as airports close
THOUSANDS of commuters and air passengers were caught up in travel chaos last night as heavy snow fell across the country.
Tens of thousands of Irish emigrants face into a crunch 48 hours to see if they can return home in time for Christmas after airports in the US, Britain and Europe shut for much of yesterday.
Met Eireann warned sub-zero temperatures will continue to grip the country until at least the end of the week.
Bus services were curtailed in most parts yesterday due to icy roads, while Dublin Airport was forced to close at 6pm yesterday because of heavy snowfall and was not expected to open until late last night.
Motorists trying to get home in the evening peak hour were left sitting in gridlock for up to an hour, with widespread delays reported in Galway, Dublin and Cork.
Problems were most acute in the capital. On the M50, some lanes were closed after 6.30pm last night after a number of trucks jackknifed. There were also long delays on the N11.
Falling snow led to delays for bus passengers and Luas services on the Red line to Tallaght only ran between Smithfield and Tallaght because of a car crash on Abbey Street.
The Green line only ran from St Stephen's Green to Sandyford.
Local authorities have been spreading 2,000 tonnes of salt nationally every night, with severe rationing in place as the unprecedented weather continues. But 4,000 tonnes to treat roads will arrive tomorrow night.
Up to 150,000 homeowners were left without power for an hour in south Dublin and Wicklow after a cable failed at an ESB sub-station in a non-weather related incident.
Met Eireann last night warned that the thaw might not set in until next Saturday, when temperatures would return to "normal" levels. This follows a record temperature for December recorded at Foxford in Co Mayo on Sunday night, when the mercury plunged to minus 17C.
"It will be very cold up to Christmas Eve, with temperatures until Wednesday as low as minus 15C," forecaster Pat Clarke said.
"During the day, they will be barely above freezing. Eastern coastal counties are at risk of snow, as are parts of Tipperary, Waterford and Cork. It may get a little less cold on Christmas Eve. The good news is the weather will get warmer. It should be 8C to 10C on Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day, with frost-free nights."
Gardai urged people to continue to exercise extreme caution on the roads and to check vulnerable and elderly neighbours or relatives.
Overnight water restrictions will continue in the Dublin area over the coming days, but will be eased as reservoirs levels are replenished.
No cut-offs are expected between December 23 and 28.
But a pump failure at Sandyford reservoir in south Dublin left large parts of Sandyford and Stepaside with reduced pressure for much of yesterday. People living in higher areas were without any supply.
Repairs are expected to be finished by lunchtime today.
DART services were delayed for 25 minutes last night after a man fell onto the line at Dalkey station. Iarnrod Eireann said the man was taken to hospital.
The Dublin Port Tunnel was also closed for 20 minutes because the evening gridlock resulted in traffic being backed-up in the tunnel.
Television viewers and radio listeners in Dublin, Louth and Meath were also without their lunchtime news due to a technical problem with the RTE transmitter at Three Rock in the Dublin Mountains.
Services were restored by early afternoon.