| 4.1°C Dublin

Chaos already - and now the cold will really bite

A BIG FREEZE took hold today with the country bracing itself for more heavy snowfalls and temperatures below -10C expected.

Schools remained closed, some bus services were cancelled and train journeys cut as road conditions remained hazardous around the country.

Forecasters said the icy blast will last until at least Friday, leading to extremely hazardous driving conditions.

Met Eireann meteorologist Pat Clarke said the worst conditions will be felt over the next 24 hours, with "ground temperatures" plunging to below -10C.

He said the freeze would probably continue right through until next weekend.

However, confusion surrounds how bad it will actually get with confilcting reports coming from Met Eireann and their British counterparts.

While Met Eireann is predicting temperatures could drop to as low as - 10 in some parts of the country during the night-time, the Sky News weather service is far less pessimistic about our cold snap.

According to the British service, the coldest temperatures expected to hit Ireland is - 4 on Thursday with conditions far more moderate than reported by our weather service. It suggests only light snow flurries over the next few days with the heaviest snow being in three days time.

BBC News is also predicting similar temperatures for the next few days and is also predicting a low for the week of -4 on Thursday but rising up to 3 degrees. This contrasts greatly with the information being provided by Met Eireann which predicts it to be "exceptionally cold" with temperatures plummeting to between -3 and -10 tomorrow night.

When asked about the discrepancy in the varying weather reports, a Met Eireann representative said a forecaster was not available today to explain the discrepancies between their predications and the forecasts from international agencies.



FREEZING

Meanwhile the country is being warned that a massive 10 inches of snow is due to fall by tomorrow night, with ice and freezing fog set to cause chaos.

Motorists are being warned not to make any journeys unless absolutely necessary. In addition, the National Roads Authority (NRA) has admitted city and county councils across the country are "not in a position to keep all roads free of snow and ice".

The road authority is holding just under 50,000 tons of salt at city and county council depots.

A further 25,000 of grit, or another 15 days worth, has been ordered. Meanwhile, some 2,000 tons of salt has been spread on each of the last two nights.

That means the NRA is holding less than 30 days worth of salt at the moment. Overnight falls coated many places in a thick blanket of snow, leading to disruption to transport services and hundreds of school closures.

But despite the big freeze taking hold, the Herald has learned that Dublin City Council has allocated no funding for extreme weather next year. While last winter's big freeze battered Dublin City Council's resources, the authority's budget states there is no funding this year to provide for acts of god or exceptional events.

Work on the 2011 budget began last June and the draft was completed before the snow took hold. City manager John Tierney told last night's budget meeting no extra funds have been given by the Government to provide for extreme weather.

In Dublin, thunder and lightening were experienced during the night along with heavy snowfall, particularly on the southside.

Kildare, Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford also had a lot of overnight downfalls.

Andrew McLindon of Bus Eireann said today the vast majority of its services around the country were operating as normal, though there were some delays and diversions in affected areas.

"The most affected areas were in the east of the country," the spokesman said.

Disruption was caused to the company's Dublin Airport to Rosslare service, with the 8am departure today cancelled. The 109 Navan to Dublin City University did not operate early this morning but was back in operation a short time later. The 111 Trim/Dublin service was unable to serve Athboy, while the 8am Dundalk to Newry departure was cancelled.

Cliodhna Ni Fhatharta of Dublin Bus told Morning Ireland the company had a full service in operation. Luas, DART and commuter rail services operated as normal, despite the extreme weather.

AA Roadwatch said today roads and traffic on the southside of Dublin were particularly badly affected. The N81 in Templeogue as far as Harold's Cross was singled out as being very hazardous. There were also very bad conditions in Rathgar and Rathmines this morning, with the area around the Grand Canal extremely icy.

The N11 Stillorgan Road from Foxrock inwards was badly hit as well.

hnews@herald.ie


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