Temperatures of -10 as country set for arrival of 'beast for the east'
A massive operation is under way to keep the Dublin transport network running with the Russian Arctic weather front nicknamed the "Beast from the East" to hit today.
Met Eireann is poised to issue a status red warning, while temperatures could plunge to as low as -10C in the coming days.
It represents the most severe winter weather to strike Ireland and the UK since the big freeze of 2010.
The capital will bear the brunt of the Siberian weather amid concerns that, if snowfall levels hit projected targets, flight disruption at Dublin Airport is inevitable.
Dublin City Council is co-ordinating closely with Bus Eireann, Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Luas officials in a bid to keep the transport network operational.
Schools closures are likely, while there are also fears about panic buying.
Consultations are to take place with mobile phone operators today amid fears services will be impacted by blizzard-like conditions.
A source said "assurances" were needed that the network can withstand the heavy snowfall and Arctic winds.
If mobile coverage was to collapse it would present a serious risk particularly for older people and those leaving in isolated areas.
Defence Force teams have been put on standby to support the emergency services if the extreme weather threatens to overwhelm normal resources.
Such is the concern over what is officially being called "Storm Emma" that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has asked the Irish Red Cross to specify its available resources of ambulances and off-road vehicles.
Contingency plans are being put in place by travel operators, while Dublin Airport will have more than 100 machines dedicated to de-icing and clearing snow.
The front will see large snowfalls of more than 10cm.
The worst of the weather is expected from late tomorrow night - although temperatures already plunged to -5C overnight.
Around 6cm of snow is expected in some areas tomorrow.
"The 'Beast from the East' is coming our way," Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned last night.
"I would ask people to pay very close attention to any weather warnings and advice that is issued in coming days."
The Taoiseach said specific advice will be issued as soon as it possibly can.
A status orange warning is already in place for Dublin, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Wicklow and Meath.
Met Eireann's Evelyn Cusack said, given the five-day forecast, a status red warning was very likely later this week.
"It will be bitterly cold and we are expecting dynamic snowfalls in some areas," she said. "Some areas are quite likely to experience blizzard-like conditions."
The Government's National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG) met yesterday under Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. The NECG includes representation from transport, education and health service bodies.
Its chairman, Sean Hogan, vowed that everything possible would be done to maintain services and protect public safety.
"We are expecting some very unusual and extreme weather conditions. This weather is going to impact everybody across the country," he said.
The Department of Education said it was too early to say if schools would be closed but stressed that the situation was being monitored closely.
Elderly Minister Jim Daly urged people to stock up on heating fuels.
Mr Daly said special social welfare schemes, such as the Exceptional Needs Payment, were in place to ensure people had access to heating supplies.
Owners of vacant and derelict properties have been urged to shut off water supplies given the likelihood of burst pipes.
Householders in areas likely to experience freezing have also been urged to have stocks of water in reserve.