Saturday 14 December 2019

South-west has sunniest spell in 40 years

Angela White and Rachael Moan, from Navan, in St Stephen's Green yesterday at lunchtime
Angela White and Rachael Moan, from Navan, in St Stephen's Green yesterday at lunchtime

Michael McHale and Paul Melia

WINTER has officially ended, but the white stuff isn't leaving without a fight.

Many of us basked in sunshine on the first day of spring yesterday but snow remained on higher ground, such as on the Conor Pass in Kerry.

And figures released from Met Eireann yesterday would send a shiver down your spine. December, January and February were the coldest winter months since 1962/63, but sunnier than normal almost everywhere.

February was the coldest since 1986 and, in some parts, the chilliest in more than 40 years, with average temperatures of -1C and +2C being two degrees below normal.

But, for the fourth month in a row, the country enjoyed an unexpected blast of sunshine. While the east remained usually dull, the south and south-west had the sunniest February for more than 40 years.

In Valentia, it was the sunniest winter in over a century of records. The biggest number of sunshine hours -- 311 -- was recorded at Cork airport.

For some motorists, the unusual spells proved a headache, as the blinding sun was blamed for several road collisions yesterday.

Early morning commuters were hit with long delays after a 50km stretch of the M7 motorway from Portlaoise to Naas was affected by a number of crashes.

The rising sun also affected east-bound drivers on the M4 and M7, where over 11 collisions occurred, resulting in lengthy tailbacks. AA Roadwatch said that while yesterday's sunny and clear weather was welcome, it did cause difficulties for motorists because of the low, blinding sun.

As traffic headed east into the glare, icy conditions added to drivers' troubles, said the AA's Nicola Hudson.

If sunshine was more of a problem than usual for winter drivers, the rain had less of an impact.

Shannon airport recorded its driest winter since 1963/64, and there was unusually little rainfall throughout the country. In February, there were between seven and 12 wet days, compared to the month's average of between 11 and 15.

In parts of the east and west there were almost 30 days with snow, but Met Eireann officials described the snowfall as "slight, except on high ground".

Ireland's roads were also icier than normal as the number of days with air frost reached between 17 and 21 last month.

Irish Independent

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