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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 19 December, 2014

Over 100 people rescued from Wicklow mountains in 5 days

Rescue services call for warning signs to alert motorists to ice and snow-laden roads over Sally Gap.

Archive photo of road through the Sally Gap in Co Wicklow in inclement weather.
Archive photo of road through the Sally Gap in Co Wicklow in inclement weather.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 13.33

BAD ROAD CONDITIONS in mountainous areas in Wicklow, especially around the Sally Gap, saw over 100 people having to be rescued in the past five days.

The Dublin and Wicklow Mountain (DWMRT) and the Glen of Imaal Red Cross rescue teams have reported that they responded to eight incidents over the five days. Almost eighty of those people rescued had been travelling in one coach and two minibuses which became stuck at the Sally Gap in sub-zero temperatures, icy roads and continuing snowfall.

The DWMRT said that the surfaces of roads in that area were “like sheet of ice” and that other vehicles became stuck as the area became impassable. Some people managed to make their way on foot to safety in Glencree while others were transported by mountain rescuers in four-wheel drive vehicles.

The conditions persisted yesterday – and mountain rescue teams had to bring families with young children to safety in Knockree after vehicles went off road and became stuck in the freezing conditions. That incident happened at 4.51pm yesterday.

Gary Ashe, a photographer with the Irish Daily Star, posted this short video on Youtube today. The conditions at the Sally Gap seemed to thwart even this four-wheel drive vehicle:



via Gary Ashe/Youtube

While gardai alerted mountain rescue teams to the situation in Sally Gap over the weekend, one motorist told TheJournal.ie that they had seen no signs to warn traffic that the roads were impassable.

A spokesperson for the Glen of Imaal rescue team said that they have strongly recommended that the council should erect warning signs and find a way of alerting motorists when the roads are impassable.

The spokesperson said:

There are no signs and there never have been. The way the word gets out is basically us (voluntary rescue services) getting on to the media and letting them know.

He added that there are over 20 vehicles still abandoned up around Sally Gap after the weekend rescues. “Last night, the rescue involved nine adults, three children and a dog.” He said that while there are obvious signs that people should heed – common sense, for one – when considering whether to drive in mountainous areas, the mountain rescue services believe that proper warning signs should be erected by the local authority.

“It won’t prevent people coming up and getting stuck but it would reduce the number who do. Warning signs would be a good start. We have spoken to the gardai and they are going to pass that on to the council.”

A similar message came from the Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team. Their spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that it would have been helpful if the council could have erected a barrier on the road to notify people that the way was impassable on Sunday. “The teams will have to go back to the county council on this,” she said.

Those who were stranded on the Sally Gap on Saturday, she said, had not been foolish but had been “caught out” by a sudden change in conditions.

She said that three inches of snow fell in the space of two hours. On the DWMRT’s way up the Gap, they met two cyclists and met two more at the top. “These were all experienced cyclists who were simply caught out by the weather.”

TheJournal.ie has contacted Wicklow County Council for comment on the issue and is awaiting a reply.

  • The council’s gritting schedule for 2012/2013 shows that major roads such as the N81 and the N11/M11 are the priority for gritting in icy conditions.
  • A number of smaller roads are listed as being ‘priority 2′ on the gritting schedule. These include the R117, R725, R746, R747, R748, R749, R750, R751, R752, R753, R754, R755, R756, R758, R759, R761, R762, R768, R765, R769, R772, R774.
  • The roads which run through the Sally Gap area – the R115 and R759 – are marked as “regional roads not on (gritting) Schedule”.

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