The warning was issued as it was confirmed the “Beast From The East” and Storm Emma will clash directly over Ireland today. The Government said between 22cm and 28cm of snow will fall by tomorrow afternoon.
People in Cork City, which will be among the first areas hit by the storm, face a further hazard as they brace for high tides and flooding.
National Emergency Co-ordination Group chairman Sean Hogan urged the public to heed the official warnings.
He said the red-alert weather warnings for the entire country, announced late last night, are in place to protect people’s lives.
“We have not experienced blizzard conditions, 110km winds, since 1982, and the reports from that time indicate the serious and life-threatening conditions which may be posed from heavy snow and strong winds,” said Mr Hogan.
“Having considered the Met Éireann warning and the likely impact of the blizzard conditions, and for reasons of public safety, we are advising people should not venture out of doors when the red-level warning is in place.
“It would be suicidal to go driving in the conditions, in blizzard-like conditions. Do not be out there from 4pm.
Late last night the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, confirmed that since a status red weather alert had now been issued for all counties all schools, third level institutions and colleges of further education will be closed today and Friday.
UPDATE: Status red has now been issued for all counties with immediate effect. All schools, third level institutions and colleges of further education will be closed tomorrow and Friday #stormemma— Richard Bruton (@RichardbrutonTD) February 28, 2018
In his briefing Mr Hogan went on to say that Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus routes have been cancelled, while Iarnród Éireann and the Luas will operate a “constrained” service up to 2pm.
His warnings were echoed by forecaster Evelyn Cusack, who said temperatures will drop to minus-7C in some places and that Storm Emma and the Arctic winds known as “the beast from the east” will converge over Ireland today.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the “exceptional blizzard-like conditions” means people should not venture outdoors while the red warning are in place. He asked businesses to assess if they need to open at all, a view repeated last night by Ibec.
Transport Minister Shane Ross said up to 38cm of snow will fall by tomorrow afternoon.
“In the blizzards you may not be able to see the hand in front of your face. total white-out... Most importantly, stay safe,” said Mr Varadkar.
In Cork City, authorities urged those living and working in flood-risk areas to take steps to protect their property before 4pm, when the “stay indoors” advisory kicks in.
Aside from the blizzard conditions, the low pressure, the strong southerly to south-easterly winds, and storm surge associated with Storm Emma will coincide with a period of high astronomical spring tides from 5.15pm, and at each high tide until 7.45am on Monday.
The combination of factors will result in tide levels higher than what are natural, putting low-lying areas of the city centre at risk of flooding before and after all the high tides.
The highest risk of flooding is around Morrison’s Island, Union Quay, South Terrace, Lavitt’s Quay, Kyrl’s St, Kyrl’s Quay, Crosses Green, Sharman Crawford St, and Wandesford Quay.
There is a lower level of flood risk along South Mall, Lapps Quay, MacSwiney Quay, Albert Quay, Proby’s Quay, French’s Quay, Lancaster Quay, Sullivan’s Quay and Lower Glanmire Rd.
A spokesman for Cork City Council said it does not propose to issue sandbags but will have a limited supply of gel-bags available for collection at the council’s Anglesea Terrace depot from 9.30am to 1pm today.
A number of road closures and traffic restrictions will be implemented before the flood events.
The city council’s severe weather response team will continue to meet today to assess the threats posed by the severe snow and flood risk.