THE COUNTRY was braced for a return of extremely low temperatures this week, with snow forecast in places.
It follows the coldest December on record, which caused transport chaos and water shortages in Dublin and many other counties.
The prospect of more freezing weather has put local authorities on alert as they continue to deal with the aftermath of last month's arctic conditions.
Met Eireann said temperatures will be at normal levels until the middle of this week but will then take a dip.
Widespread frost is predicted for Wednesday night, with temperatures dropping to -2C.
However, a return of the dreaded north winds is forecast for Thursday, bringing significantly colder weather and a severe frost.
This pattern will continue on Friday, while Saturday will also be very cold.
Wintry showers and snow in Leinster and Munster, particularly on higher ground, are a possibility.
Peter O'Donnell, a forecaster with Irish Weather Online, said a colder front of arctic air is headed south and could bring snow to parts of the North by midweek.
While the early indications are that it will not be as severe as December's big freeze, it will be "severe enough", Mr O'Donnell said.
The Met service said it seemed "very likely" the sub-zero weather would stay for about five days.
Night-time temperatures could fall to as low as -8C.
The travel plans of thousands of air and road passengers were plunged into chaos in the lead-up to Christmas because of heavy snow.
A series of shutdowns at Dublin Airport meant many people could not get home for December 25, while many more had to cancel holidays abroad.
Air temperatures last month fell five to seven degrees below the mean average, Met Eireann said.
"At all our stations thus far it has been the coldest December on record," Met Eireann's Gerald Fleming said.
"Those records in some cases go back to the mid-1850s."
A daily maximum temperature of -9.4C was recorded at Ballyhaise, Co Cavan, on December 21.
That was the lowest daily maximum ever recorded in Ireland, which made it the coldest day ever recorded here.