High alert over blizzards and zero visibility as ‘Beast from East’ on a par with 1982 big freeze

The ‘Beast from the East’ Siberian snow storm set to grip Ireland from tonight could cause as much havoc as the historic 1982 freeze that brought the country to a standstill.

High alert over blizzards and zero visibility as ‘Beast from East’ on a par with 1982 big freeze

The Government and Met Éireann confirmed the scale of the weather front as they warned schools may shut from Thursday, rural and regional roads could become impassable, and flights will be grounded if the event is as severe as predicted.

Speaking to reporters as British temperatures slumped to -16C, with up to eight inches of snow falling overnight and continental Europe temperatures falling even further, Ireland was warned to prepare for the worst snow in four decades.

“There is an exceptionally cold weather event on our doorstep, it will have an impact on all of the country, and it will get progressively worse through the end of the week,” Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said.

“We’re probably roughly 24 hours before we can expect the system to really hit. The closest comparison we have from our forecasts is the event in 1982.”

The view was repeated by Met Éireann weather forecaster Evelyn Cusack, who said blizzards, gale force winds and zero visibility were likely from Thursday, meaning current orange weather warnings for the South and East will change to nationwide red warnings in the next 48 hours.

Ms Cusack added temperatures will fall to at least -7C as a storm front from the Bay of Biscay hits rare arctic winds dropping down and across Europe from the North Pole, leading to “several centimetres” of snow and “exceptionally cold” weather.

She likened the situation to 1982, a position later re-iterated by the Government’s National Emergency Co-Ordination Group (NECG) chair Sean Hogan.

Snow and ice sweep across Europe. Clockwise from top left: The Millenium Bridge, London, England; Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France; a forest in Holzminden, Germany; St Peter’s Square, the Vatican, Italy; Lake Balaton, Hungary; Duernau, Goeppingen, Germany; Hortiatis, Thessaloniki, Greece; Skopje, Macedonia. Pictures: Getty/PA
Snow and ice sweep across Europe. Clockwise from top left: The Millenium Bridge, London, England; Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France; a forest in Holzminden, Germany; St Peter’s Square, the Vatican, Italy; Lake Balaton, Hungary; Duernau, Goeppingen, Germany; Hortiatis, Thessaloniki, Greece; Skopje, Macedonia. Pictures: Getty/PA

Over two days in January 1982, a foot of snow was dumped on the country, with a further 10 days of blizzards seeing temperatures plummet to -19.6C, the Irish army sending helicopters to bring supplies to cut-off areas, and Canadian officials taking pity by donating six snow ploughs.

The severe snow warnings came as the NECG outlined the likely scale of the ‘Beast from the East” storm when it begins to hit these shores from tonight.

The NECG said that, by Thursday:

  • A nationwide red weather warning may be introduced, which is likely to see schools shut and will automatically mean Bus Éireann school buses are taken off the roads, affecting 116,000 pupils;
  • Road visibility levels will be zero, with people told not to make any unnecessary journeys;
  • European flights were severely delayed last night, despite Dublin Airport spokeswoman Siobhan O’Donnell saying there are no plans yet to close airports;
  • Local and regional roads may be impassable.

This, Transport Infrastructure Ireland spokesman Sean O Neill said, is because while there is an “ample” 120,000 tonnes of sand and salt — five times more than used during 2010 — the majority are for “critical” national roads

Officials yesterday urged people to make sure they have enough food and fuel supplies, and to check in on elderly neighbours and relatives, while Mr Murphy also confirmed an extra 100 beds for homeless people.

Tesco in Bray, Co Wicklow. The shelves are empty as the supermarket ran out of bread.
Tesco in Bray, Co Wicklow. The shelves are empty as the supermarket ran out of bread.

Meanwhile, in a sign of what is facing Ireland, continental Europe began to be blanketed in snow yesterday, with record low temperatures of -27C in Germany and widespread blizzards reported.

People living in south-east Britain were also warned to get indoors by 6pm yesterday as temperatures were expected to fall overnight to -16C, with eight inches of snow falling, while parts of the sea near Bristol began to freeze.

News: 6

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