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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
RollingNews File photo
# winter is coming
Freezing weather, frost and snow: Here's what you need to know as the cold snap sets in
A Winter Weather Advisory is in place as the coldest temperatures in three years are expected this week.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 7th 2022, 12:53 PM

IRELAND IS PREPARING for cold weather today as below-freezing temperatures and possible snow are forecast from this evening.

Met Éireann has issued a Status Yellow ice warning for the entire country beginning at midnight tonight and until midday tomorrow, with the forecaster warning that a band of wintry precipitation “will sink southwards with the potential for black ice/freezing rain on surfaces”.

A separate Status Yellow warning for low temperatures and ice has also been announced for tomorrow night and Friday morning. 

The national director for Fire and Emergency Management, Keith Leonard, told RTÉ Radio’s News at One that public transport operators have activated their cold weather plans.

Local authorities have activated their severe weather assessment teams and Transport Infrastructure Ireland have also stored double the amount of grit salt used in a typical winter, he said.

Speaking to Claire Byrne earlier this week, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann, Evelyn Cusack said that a cold front of arctic air moving on Ireland is the cause of the cold snap.

“We haven’t had these temperatures for three years now, it’s time to make preparations,” she said, noting that many northern counties could see snow on Wednesday night which may freeze over.

The weather comes at a time when people are already struggling with the cost of living and rising costs of electricity and heating.

Here’s what you need to know about the cold snap.

Schools

The closure of schools due to bad weather is decided by their individual management teams, the Department of Education has said, so it’s up to them to decide whether the cold and ice are severe enough.

Some of the issues that schools take into account include:

  • conditions in the school itself
  • capacity of the school to ensure the health and safety of students whilst in school
  • ability of parents, students, staff and school transport services to safely negotiate local road conditions to reach the school
  • guidance and direction from the principal response agencies

The government’s Be Winter Ready safety campaign has urged schools to conduct an evaluation of what measures could be in place to ensure the opening of the school in the event of severe weather.

Schools may be advised to close by the Department of Education if Met Éireann issues a Status Red weather warning, however that’s unlikely in this week.

Met Éireann warnings

The forecaster has issued two Status Yellow warnings for low temperatures and ice later this week, but what do they mean?

Weather alerts and warnings will be issued whenever weather conditions meeting certain thresholds are anticipated within a 48-hr period.

Met Éireann’s criteria for what constitutes a Status Yellow ice warning is “scattered snow showers giving accumulations of less than 3 cm.” This ice would be expected to cause slippery paths and roads if it’s left untreated.

The upcoming Yellow temperature warning means that temperatures will be as low as -3 or -4 degrees, and no warmer than 1 or 2 degrees above freezing.

met Met Éireann Met Éireann

If temperatures were expected to dip to between -5 and -9 degrees, Met Éireann would escalate the warning to a Status Orange.

However, based on the forecaster’s current projections, the only time the weather will get close to this cold is for a brief time on Friday morning when the temperature could fall to -4 degrees, and so a Status Orange warning for cold is unlikely.

A Status Orange ice warning would be declared if more than 3cm of snowy precipitation falls and turns to ice. 

Public Transport

The Department of Transport has stated that all transport operators will keep their services running but the impact of the weather in certain areas may be worse than in others and could cause disruption.

“All transport operators have their winter ready plans in place and they will advise customers if there any disruptions to services so please check in with your operator before travelling,” a spokesperson said.

Pipes

Water pipes in houses can cause major damage if they burst due to freezing, and can be even more devastating the longer that water runs out.

The government’s Be Winter Ready campaign has urged people to:

  • Make sure the water tank and pipes in your attic are properly lagged or insulated. Don’t forget any pipes in unheated or draughty places, such as basements or garages – or outdoor pipes. 
  • Insulate or wrap a towel around any outside taps to prevent them from freezing.
  • Repair leaking or dripping taps or pipes.
  • If you are leaving your property unattended for a period of more than a day or two, you should shut off the water supply to the property from the external stopcock (while ensuring that any water-dependent appliances or facilities are also shut-off).

It’s also important to investigate mould in a shower or bathroom. In situations like this, there could be a burst pipe running undetected behind your shower tiles or  inside the bathroom wall.

a-pipe-splits-in-two-with-the-water-freezing-between-the-two-sections-during-a-severe-winter-in-airdrie-scotland Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

It’s also recommended to run the heating for short periods to keep the pipes from freezing and to keep the water circulating.

Opening your attic trap door to allow heat from the house to circulate through the attic can also be a good measure to keep pipes above freezing temperatures. 

Heating

A Red C poll carried out on behalf of The Journal found that in October, 77% of people said that they already or intend to use their home heating less often due to rising costs.

Kieran McCarthy, engineer and host of the Built Around You podcast advised that while heating your home is expensive, it’s important to make sure the heat you use isn’t lost.

“I’d always look at where you’re leaking energy. You might find around your windows and doors, there could be gaps, there could be a window that isn’t shutting properly or a door. So very simple things like draught excluders makes a huge difference,” he said.

“You can get rubber strips that you can put around your window, they don’t cost much at a hardware store and they can be fixed by anyone with scissors.”

He also recommended buying lagging for boilers and pipes and fitting it yourself to prevent heat being lost when water is heated.

“If you go into your attic and it’s warm, that means heat from the top floor is escaping through the ceiling and going to the attic where it’s not needed, so insulate that,” McCarthy added.

“Rather than come home and have the house freezing and then fire on the heating, because that’s a big surge, I would try to have it come on and off regularly so that you’re maintaining a kind of a base level of a medium heat.” 

Roads and Pedestrians

The Road Safety Authority has warned of a high probability of black ice and said drivers  should expect icy roads and be extra cautious on untreated road surfaces.

If the road looks polished or glossy it could be black ice which is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely.

Black ice is caused by snow or moisture from the air that freezes rapidly, which prevents air bubbles from forming, which is what give snow and regular ice their more noticeable colour.

The RSA has also advised drivers to:

  • Keep a lookout for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users as snow may reduce visibility.
  • Keep your windows clear of snow during your journey.
  • Manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking, acceleration or steering as these can induce a skid.
  • Use the highest gear possible to reduce the engine revs as this will help avoid wheel spin.

If a journey cannot be avoided, pedestrians should be extremely careful as snow and ice can make walking on footpaths very dangerous.  

bwr Be Winter Ready Be Winter Ready

For those who do undertake a journey, the RSA has issued the following advice.

  • While walking on footpaths and in public places, or entering and exiting your car or truck, DO NOT underestimate the dangers of frost and ice.
  • Each winter slips and fall accidents cause serious injuries. Even when surfaces do not look especially icy or slippery, it is very possible that a thin sheet of transparent ice or “Black Ice” is covering your pathway putting you at risk.
  • Many slips and falls happen in places people regard as safe and secure, typically outside their front door on the doorstep, on the path or while getting out of the car.
  • If you are out walking in icy conditions wear appropriate footwear.
  • Visibility is reduced in hail, sleet, or snow so at night wear high visibility clothing or carry a torch and if you cycle make sure your bike is fitted with lights front and rear.

The RSA has urged cyclists and motorcyclists to be especially vigilant because they will have less traction on snow and ice due to having only two wheels.

Farming

Yesterday, the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue urged farmers to get ready for the approaching cold spell.

“The priority must always be the safety of people and then livestock. Farmers should ensure that their yards are safe, firstly by tidying up to remove material which can cause trips or falls. All dripping taps, pipes and drainpipes should be repaired to avoid slippery patches of ice in the yard.” 

The government has warned that frozen pipes may make it more difficult to provide animals with drinking water.

The most vulnerable groups of animals to water shortage are milking cows, animals on high concentrate diets and animals fed hay, straw or other very dry feeds.

Concentrate feeding levels should be reduced and animals put on wet silage fed to appetite, where an adequate water supply cannot be provided.

These animals need to be introduced to meals gradually again once water supply is restored.

Reducing mineral intake may reduce the demand for water, particularly in sheep.

Farmers are urged to break surface ice on drinking troughs twice a day and to ensure they have a supply of gritting material for their yard so that milk collection vehicles and feed deliveries can still take place. 

Other problems taking place at farms may include the freezing of milking machines and other equipment in milking parlours and the freezing of coolant and diesel in tractors. 

Community

Be Winter Ready also advises people to check in on elderly or vulnerable neighbours and to make sure they have adequate food and medication in case the weather makes it difficult to travel.

Icy ground poses an added risk for older people, and the campaign warns that they should stay indoors as much as possible during cold weather.

People should make sure to have their neighbours’ phone numbers and should ask the Gardaí to check for them if they are concerned for the safety of a vulnerable or elderly person.

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