STRONG gale force winds were sweeping the country today with plummeting temperatures and snow showers in the west and north. Met Eireann has issued a gale warning for violent winds not seen since Hurricane Katia.
The gales are strongest in the north west and north coast but are also affecting Leinster.
Commuters and shoppers in Dublin for the traditional December 8 day were warned to beware of cross winds – particularly on the M50.
"There is a violent storm in our sea area and we are expecting very strong winds," a Met Eireann spokeswoman said.
Wind speeds will touch on violent storm-force 11 but will fall short of hurricane status. Those living to the west of the country are likely to feel the brunt of the bruising weather.
"There is a depression moving on the north-west of the country and the strongest winds will be near the centre of that, which will be in north-west Donegal and on the west coast (in general)," the spokeswoman said.
Met Eireann issued three weather warnings last night in relation to the storm.
Snow and sleet are also possible as icy temperatures drop to as low as -2C.
And the news doesn't get a lot better as Met Eireann said the unsettled spell looked set to continue into early next week.
Schools are expected to shut across Scotland today as Britain braces itself for winds of up to 130kph.
Key travel routes are likely to be closed and severe gales could lead police to advise against all travel, the Scottish Government said.
The Met Office issued its highest - red alert - warning for winds in Scotland between 3pm and 6pm today, while strong gales could hit the extreme west of the country from 7am.
Although Scotland will bear the brunt of the bad weather, other parts of the UK could also be affected by strong winds.
Lindsay Dovey, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "There will be gusts of 100mph in north-west Scotland and over high ground.
"Gusts of up to 70mph are expected in northern England and north-west Wales.
"Across central England and East Anglia, we'll have gusts of 55 to 60mph, and up to 55mph in the south of the UK."
She said temperatures would range between 7C, in Scotland, and 13C, in the south of Britain, but added: "It will feel much colder because of the wind."
Snow will hit Scotland this morning, but it will be quickly followed by heavy rain that will spread south during the day, and stormy conditions are expected.