Snow has started to fall in parts of the country with as Ireland is set to be plunged into sub-zero conditions by an Arctic air mass likely to bring the coldest weather since Storm Emma over four years ago.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has moved to reassure householders, farmers and small businesses that they will not be affected even if power cuts occur, with bigger uses hit first.
Status yellow snow warnings were issued for three counties this morning, in place for Dublin, Donegal and Wicklow from this evening until Friday morning.
As if on cue, snow began descending on Dublin around 10pm as Met Eireann’s Status Yellow snow warning for the capital went into effect at 9pm.
The #sneachta Twitter feed was trending as delighted Dubs posted video and still images of the white stuff coating their cars, gardens and neighbourhoods.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Phibsboro. #sneachta pic.twitter.com/aSasEfe4JB— Craig Dwyer (@DwyerCraig) December 8, 2022
Unfortunately the snow shower was fleeting. There was a lovely dusting of snow in the Phoenix Park but it only lasted a few minutes.
Gardaí are assisting a number of motorists who are stuck in their cars on Lough Salt Road near Kilmacrennan, Co Donegal, this evening.
Gardaí said the roads around Kilmacrennan and Milford are in a "dangerous condition due to the drop in temperature" and that a number of cars are stuck on Lough Salt Road as a result.
"Efforts are being made to assist all involved at present. The Council are en route and the road may be closed for an unknown period of time in the interest of public safety when all cars have been removed. Please avoid the area if possible. Take care if you must venture out on the roads tonight or early tomorrow morning," Gardaí in Donegal said.
The bitter airflow will bring daytime temperatures of around freezing with night-time temperatures likely to dip to -6C and colder in places.
This has already brought snow to parts of the country and hail, sleet and freezing rain to other areas.
Freezing fog, black ice and wintry precipitation will make travel more precarious, particularly at night.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has advised motorists and pedestrians to prepare for hazardous conditions with black ice, snow, fog and frost all likely in the coming days.
Met Éireann has issued Status Yellow warnings for low temperatures and icy conditions and is forecasting severe frost and ice up until next Monday, with uncertainty beyond that.
Temperatures are not expected to exceed 3C until next week.
Daytime temperatures are expected to be around 5C below the seasonal average towards the end of this week, and it will feel very cold following an unseasonably mild November.
Retailers in the capital have reported a huge increase in demand for winter essentials since Met Éireann issued its weather advisory earlier this week.
Forecaster Brandon Creagh said the cold snap will prob-ably bring with it the sharpest temperatures felt by the country in several years.
Temperatures in the country plummeted to -9C in early March 2018 after what was dubbed “the Beast from the East”, and similarly bitter conditions are expected in the coming days.
“Considering that we haven’t seen anything like this in the last few years, it will feel unusual, in most people’s memory,” Mr Creagh said.
“We’ve had quite mild winters in the past two years and also, just last month, November was very mild.
“It switched quite quickly on us from southerly, quite tropical air in November to easterly and now to northerly, which is bringing the cold air down on top of us.”
There is a possibility of snow today in parts of Connacht, Ulster and the midlands before a cloud mass moves in from the east tonight and tomorrow morning, bringing with it more snow and sleet.
Today started with black ice and fog patches, with maximum temperatures of 0C to 3C during the day.
A “severe” frost will then set in this evening, with wintry showers and lows of -5C and colder overnight.
Flurries of snow tomorrow morning are most likely to affect Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains and the eastern seaboard.
There will be some lying snow and freezing fog but much of the country will be cold but clear.
Showers of hail and snow are expected on coastal counties at times tomorrow, with lows of -5C forecast.
Temperatures will dip even further at the weekend and may not climb above zero in some places, with a freezing fog lingering over parts of the country.
Sunday will be similarly bitter, and some locations are likely to have highest temperatures of only -2C and lowest temperatures of -6C, with the possibility of even colder conditions locally.
The National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management Crisis Management Team met yesterday morning and has been liaising with Met Éireann regarding the current period of cold weather, it said.
The forecaster has also briefed local authorities, utility providers and government departments in preparation for the cold snap.
Domestic electricity users will be the last to be affected in any power shortages, the Tánaiste has reassured households.
Leo Varadkar was speaking after the revelation of an amber alert in recent days, and the threat of electricity being cut off to users.
“The projections indicate that the next two weeks are going to be quite tight in terms of the supply of electricity, largely because temperatures are going to be very low, and there isn't going to be very much wind,” the Fine Gael leader said.
Demand and the absence of renewables feeding into the grid “means that there could be what we call amber alerts happening over the course of the next two weeks,” he said.
“But I do want to reassure people that in the unlikely event that there's a shortage of electricity — and that hasn't happened yet — the first to be affected will be the major energy users, the data centres that have their own backup electricity.
“It won't be homes, farms or small businesses affected.
“And in the unlikely event that we go from an amber alert to red alert and there isn't enough electricity in the system, it is the large energy users to data centres that have their own backup that will be called on to power down.”
Mr Varadkar confirmed that ministers were briefed on the matter by Minister Eamon Ryan in the last couple of days, and warned of potential demand overload on the grid.
Meanwhile, as temperatures plummet, the public have been racing to stay warm, with retailers reporting increased sales on heaters, electric blankets and other goods.
Woodie’s in Blanchardstown said it had sold out of stand-alone Superser gas heaters, while briquettes and hot-water bottles were also selling out quickly.
DID Electrical in Stillorgan said it had sold out of electric blankets and electrical and oil-powered heaters, while Guineys in Dublin city centre said it has seen a big increase in the sale of blankets and thermal undergarments as people are “layering up”.
There have been no announcements yet of school closures or disruption to school bus routes, with a Department of Education spokesperson saying school boards of management are responsible for the day-to-day running of their institutions.
Alone, the national organisation representing older people, recently launched its winter campaign.
It warned that more elderly people than ever are at risk of suffering from the cold due to the soaring costs of electricity and oil this winter.
“Share the Warmth” aims to raise awareness and funds to help the more than 100,000 older people who are now living in poverty or are at risk of falling into poverty.
Alone CEO Seán Moynihan said the charity has had to expand its services to meet growing demand.