Up to 30cm of snow causes chaos, but the worst is yet to come

An aerial view of Kinsale Harbour in Co. Cork this morning. Pic. John Allen

Heavy snow and treacherous driving conditions have already caused travel chaos nationwide — with the worst of the weather yet to hit the country.

Snowfall of up to 30cm in some parts of the country left schools and businesses closed even in advance of the Beast from the East hitting Ireland.

Conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next 48 hours.The eastern part of the country was particularly badly hit overnight on Tuesday with significant snowfalls occurring in Dublin, Meath, Wicklow, Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, and Louth. In Laois, snowfall of up to 30cm was reported in certain areas.

Driving conditions in parts were described as treacherous while numerous roads were left impassable due to the weather conditions.

There was significant disruption to bus services in all of the main affected areas. Dublin Bus said there was “significant disruption” to its schedule but that buses were on the roads in the capital.

However, these were confined to the main corridors and many routes were restricted. School transport services in Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Meath, and Wicklow did not operate.

The Luas operated a reduced service due to the weather. While the Luas Red Line was operating from Tallaght and Saggart to The Point, the company said the service was “limited”. The Green Line was operating from Sandyford to Broombridge but was also limited, while there was no service from Sandyford to Brides Glen.

Bus Éireann was also forced to cancel a number of services. Expressway services from Dublin were operating but customers were advised to expect curtailments and delays. A number of other services in Cork, Limerick, and Waterford were cancelled.

Irish Rail ran a relatively full schedule but a number of services, mainly in Dublin, did not operate. Dublin Airport was forced to temporarily suspend flight operations to clear the main runway. The road to Terminal One was also closed for a time due to heavy snow but later reopened.

Ryanair cancelled all flights to and from the airport for the day, while Aer Lingus was also forced to cancel a number of flights. Shannon Airport handled 14 flight diversions from Dublin Airport from 4.20am on Wednesday due to the temporary closure of that airport.

Shannon Airport was fully operational Tuesday night and yesterday. Two inbound and outbound Shannon services to Edinburgh and Birmingham were cancelled.

A Shannon Airport spokeswoman said the situation would be monitored over the coming days and advised passengers to contact their relevant airline or look at its website.

Those expecting a respite from the conditions will have to wait. Due to worsening weather forecasts, Dublin Bus is not operating today, while there will be no Bus Éireann services in Munster and Leinster.

Irish Rail will have services operating in the morning and early afternoon but expects to wind down services completely by 2pm. The Luas will run a limited service until 12pm today.

Gritting lorries and crews work around the clock

Sean O’Riordan and Noel Baker

Snow ploughs are at the ready, 20 gritting lorries are working around the clock, and all county council roadcrews are out in advance of a major blizzard which is expected to hit Co Cork later this afternoon. 

Intending airline passengers have been advised by Cork Airport to keep a close eye on their
airline’s websites and twitter feeds as flights could be severely disrupted.

The airport was closed for more than an hour and a half yesterday morning as crews cleared the main runway.

Some incoming flights were diverted to Kerry and some outbound planes had take-offs delayed. Aer Lingus cancelled a number of flights out of Cork to airports in England and Paris.

The army was called in yesterday to help ferry nurses from Marymount Hospice to attend to patients who needed palliative care in rural areas cut off by snow.

It is expected the army will play a more significant role today ensuring snowed-in medical staff are able to get to work at major hospitals in the region.

The HSE said all non-essential clinics and appointments have been cancelled for today and
tomorrow.

The county council used 300 tonnes of grit overnight. It had to grit the Midleton-Whitegate road on several occasions as oil tankers taking deliveries from the Whitegate refinery got stuck on Saleen Hill.

Some cars also ended up in ditches there and had to be pulled out by tractors before gardaí closed the road.

The main Cork-Waterford road was closed for a number of hours when icy patches formed on the Youghal bypass, causing two lorries to jackknife.

Drivers were advised to take the Fermoy-Lismore-Dungarvan road as an alternative route.

Earlier in the day, gardaí advised motorists not to travel the Dungrourney-Midleton road, describing it as “treacherous”. A number of accidents were reported on it, including one where a car ended up on its roof.

Cobh was particularly badly hit, especially high areas of the town. The council had to send
additional gritting lorries into the area in the morning and afternoon.

A number of accidents were also reported at Carr’s Hill, on the main Cork-Ringaskiddy road.

Several post offices were closed around the county and bus services were disrupted in several high-lying areas.

In West Cork heavy snowfall meant gardaí were advising motorists to avoid almost all roads off the main N71, which itself was described by gardaí as “barely passable”.

Before 7am yesterday, lorries began having difficulty leaving Clonakilty in the Cork-bound direction, and while that situation improved, other roads had not been gritted, leading to crashes, with cars sliding off into ditches.

Gardaí in Clonakilty reported difficulties in members getting to the station, with a warning road conditions are likely to worsen as the week progresses.

Schools also closed while businesses said they would be closing early. Among those to close was Skibbereen Medical Centre.

John Joe Lyons of the Irish Red Cross ambulance service said they had been assisting dialysis patients to reach Cork for treatment, but warned conditions are likely to be much more challenging from today onwards.

“We have a centre in Skibbereen set up with the Civil Defence and we are working together,” he said.

The county council said priorities for gritting would be national primary and
secondary roads.

Fuel allowance payment will be doubled

Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Noel Baker    

The Government has rejected claims it has done a U-turn on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s refusal to pick up the heating bill for elderly people during the “Beast from the East” storm after it was forced to double this week’s fuel allowance.

Mr Varadkar and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the move was not made due to fears of a public backlash after vocal criticism of the initial refusal by Age Action Ireland and opposition parties.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said he could not write a “blank cheque” to pay for elderly people’s heat and that it would send out “the wrong message” to “pick up the bill” regardless of the cost.

However, after angry reaction, Mr Varadkar and Ms Doherty confirmed they will now double the fuel allowance this week as initially sought.

Announcing the new move at a snow-swept Government Buildings, Ms Doherty said that anyone in receipt of the €22.50 fuel allowance will see this week’s payment rise to €45 which will be paid in the next fortnight.

“My job was to make sure I was actually able to deliver on a promise. Leo wasn’t in a position to announce yesterday what has been announced now. I needed to make sure we could deliver, I think in fairness we’ve acted swiftly. All we want to do is make sure people are warm and not hungry,” she said.

Asked why he “dithered” on the issue on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar claimed he did not delay any payments and that the reverse on the issue is not a U-turn.

“I didn’t dither. The question was asked in the Dáil. I said I couldn’t give a blank cheque to anyone, because there was a suggestion from some people that the Government would pay no matter what they were and I couldn’t do that,” he said.

The U-turn on the heating costs stand-off was welcomed by Age Action Ireland and St Vincent de Paul, which said it is the right move and should have been made immediately.

Meanwhile, homeless services have said expanded efforts are being made to ensure no one is left without help during the cold snap.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive said anyone who sought a bed on Tuesday night received one, with some service providers operating on a 24/7 basis and outreach Housing First teams doubled to cover the cold weather period.

However, Merchants Quay Ireland, which operates the unique night cafe offering food and shelter, said it was running short of winter clothing for its clients and appealed for donations, particularly of hats, gloves, and scarves.

In Cork extended services from Simon, the St Vincent De Paul, and others have ensured adequate cover for those at risk of rough sleeping.

Significant cancellations of health services

Catherine Shanahan

Health services across the country have been curtailed for the remainder of the week, with the cancellation of numerous outpatient clinics and elective and routine procedures, including at Dublin’s three children’s hospitals.

Planned admissions and outpatient appointments at Temple St, Crumlin, and the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght, are cancelled today and tomorrow. The emergency departments remain open.

Patients are advised to check hospital webpages for specific updates. Cancelled appointments will be rescheduled “as a priority”.

In Cork, HSE community services have cancelled non-essential clinics and appointments for the rest of the week. These include day services for older people and those will disabilities, as well as routine appointments for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, community psychology, speech therapy and eye care clinics, child development clinics and dental clinics.

The HSE said arrangements are being made to ensure staff at community hospitals and residential centres for older people “are safely at work so that rosters can be covered”. In addition, it promised to maintain home help services “where essential for people identified as vulnerable”.

All mental health day services, day hospitals and outpatient services have been cancelled. Updated information can be found on www.hse.ie/weatherwarning.

The advice from the HSE is that if you have a hospital, GP or health centre appointment today please contact the facility to ensure it is still taking place.

The Civil Registrations Office (the births, marriages and deaths office) in Cork city will also remained closed today and tomorrow, as will the office in Skibbereen and Mallow.

Anyone needing a certificate can order online at certificates.ie.

 

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