| 13.6°C Dublin

Prepare for worst as snow closes airport

THE country was grinding to a halt today as Dublin Airport shut and grit supplies began to run out.

The capital is expected to virtually shut down in the coming days with three times as much snow likely to fall over the weekend as that which created havoc on Wednesday.

Met Eireann has said that some parts of Leinster and Munster will get between five to 10cm of snow between Sunday and Monday – last week, swathes of the country were brought to a standstill by a mere 3cm of snow.

As the Department of Education announced schools will remain closed until at least Thursday, it appeared that many business will be forced to do likewise.

In a desperate bid to clear the country’s roads, the Emergency Response Coordination Committee are investigating the use of chemical substances as an alternative to salt.

The cost of the big freeze is now likely to be well in excess of half a billion euro.

This morning, all flights at Dublin Airport were suspended until further notice at 8.30am, as staff worked to clear the runway of snow.

It was the third suspension since the start of the big freeze, including the New Year’s Day closure.

“We had to suspend operations at 8.30am until further notice because of snow on the runway,” a spokesperson for the Dublin Airport Authority said.

Local authorities are on a “knife-edge” in relation to supplies of rock salt which are expected to run out by tomorrow, and alternative sources of de-icing material are desperately being sought.

TREATED

Some roads may not be treated over the weekend in an attempt to conserve dwindling supplies.

A spokesman for the Department of Environment could not say if the parts of the road network would be shut down.

“It’s far too premature to say if the roads will be closed,” he said. “We are at the moment trying to look at alternative means of removing the snow and ice.”

Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, is due back into the country “towards the end of the weekend”, but ironically the severe weather could mean that his plane may be delayed.

The worsening conditions are set to heap further pressure on our overstretched emergency services which have been struggling to cope under very difficult condition.

A fire crew came under attack from a group of youths in Clondalkin in the early hours of the morning.

The windscreen of a fire engine was smashed in the incident that happened during a call-out at around 5am.

Dublin Bus said it was trying to operate a full service today on all corridors however there will be no service on Nitelinks or Tours.

It said there were a number of areas where road conditions are still poor and curtailments are in place.

Bus Eireann said the vast majority of services in the east of the country were currently operating with some delays.

However, it said that some local services operating on secondary roads are disrupted.

PLUNGED

Temperatures plunged to an icy -12.4 degrees overnight, with Met Eireann warning of more severe weather to come in the next 48 hours.

“Tomorrow and into Monday it will remain very cold and wintery. There will be some falls of snow in parts of the country with Munster and Leinster most at risk,” forecaster Michael McAuliffe saidsaid.

The signs are that there may be “temporary thawing effects” later next week.

Tuesday and Wednesday will see some slight improvements, with occasional daytime thawing possible especially in the south.

Local authorities are calling on the defence forces on a case by case basis as required.

“The main focus is getting people to hospitals and transporting medical staff,” the spokesman said.

Dublin City Council will not hold an emergency debate on the crisis until Monday.

Cllr Kevin Humphries (Lab) said he expected the situation to reach crisis point tomorrow, but was “optimistic” that the city could be kept moving.


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