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Dublin: 7 °C Monday 22 April, 2019
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Red alerts and total wipeouts: How the Beast from the East brought the county to a grinding halt

It’s exactly a year since the Beast began to bite – here’s how the day played out.

4874 Weather pictures_90565035 Stephen's Green in Dublin this week. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

WE’VE HAD CONFIRMED sightings of men wandering around Dublin city centre with their tops off this week as parts of the country basked in unseasonably warm February temperatures reaching the high teens. 

Around the same time last year temperatures were hovering just a degree or two above freezing, and the country was bracing for the impact of a worrying sounding once-in-a-generation snow event. 

It’s exactly a year since that event – dubbed, not-inaccurately as it turned out, as The Beast from the East – first began to cause chaos across Ireland. 

Met Éireann has just published an in-depth report on the weather phenomenon, with newly collated data on snowfall depths across the country and other detailed findings.

Using analysis from that report, among other sources, here’s how events played out hour-by-hour between that first pre-dawn red alert warning on 28 February and a countrywide red alert issued at 11pm that night which effectively shut the country down for the best part of a week. 

Wednesday 28 February 2018, 5am: Met Éireann issued its first red alert of the period for Dublin, Kildare and eastern coastal counties, following heavier than expected snowfall overnight. 

The severe weather had been expected for weeks at this point, after an event called a sudden stratospheric warming took place on 12 February. Temperatures in Ireland had been flatlining for days. 

The snow had been forecast, too, for overnight on Tuesday but more fell than authorities had been expecting. The red alert had an immediate impact for hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren and students across the affected area as Bus Éireann does not operate school bus services when such severe warnings are issued. 

6am: Other transport operators were quick out of the gates with warnings of limited services as bus, rail and Luas operators assessed their capacity after the heavy snowfall.

231 Sallins in Kildare on the morning of 28 February 2018. Source: Georgia O'Shea

7am: UCD announced it would close for two days.

Third level institutions across the country made similar announcement later as it became apparent many workplaces would have to make alternative arrangements for the coming 48 hour period at least due to staff transport problems. 

It was announced that courthouses in Dublin would not open. 

The worst of the severe weather was, of course, yet to come as a system known as Storm Emma – named by the Portuguese weather service – moved up from the south on collision course with the cold front now known as The Beast.

According to Met Éireann’s report the snow showers moved further westwards across the country on Wednesday “bringing accumulation of snow to many locations”.

“During this period Storm Emma had brought heavy rain to Portugal and Spain and was situated off the west coast of Portugal, and began to move northwards on Wednesday night.” 

Snow depths of 16cm were recorded on Wednesday in Casement Aerodrome in West Dublin, while 17cm fell in Naas in Co Kildare. 26cm fell in Glenbride Lodge in Co Wicklow, according to the Met Éireann report

0716 Snow Pictures Dublin_90538211 Source: RollingNews.ie

8am: Met Éireann issued orange and yellow alerts for other parts of the country not affected by the red warning. 

Dublin Airport announced it was expecting delays as crews continued snow clearing operations. 

Gardaí issued a warning to drivers to expect up to 25cm by the following afternoon. 

Fingal County Council said it was closing all public parks for the day (other local authorities also announced later that they too would shut their parks). 

Ikea said it would not be opening. 

65 Storm Dublin_90538279 Source: Rollingnews.ie

9am: A slew of events, including a major Brexit conference, were cancelled.

Homeless services run by Depaul in Dublin announced they would keep emergency beds that are normally vacated during daytime hours open for 24 hours during the extreme cold weather. 

The forecast for the coming 48 hours was for further bitterly cold conditions.

Daytime air temperatures did not rise above freezing in many locations during Thursday 1 and Friday 2 March. 

10am: A meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group got under way at the Department of Agriculture in Dublin. 

Dublin Airport temporarily suspended flight operations to clear its main runway.

Ulster Bank announced all of its branches in Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Meath would stay shut. 

Sections of the Luas Red Line were shut as the tram operator struggled to keep the service on line. 

11am: The HSE said anyone with a medical appointment scheduled for the day should check it was still going ahead. 

Employers were advised by business group ISME to put staff communication and safety plans in place for the coming days. 

This is what the country looked like at that point… 

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

At 11.43am Met Éireann extended its snow-ice warning to all of Munster and Leinster warning of “blizzard-like” conditions and snow drifts the following day. 

President Michael D Higgins released this statement: 

Now that the most severe weather alert has been issued for parts of the country, it is important that all those living alone, elderly or vulnerable become the concern for us all.
Please, with due care for yourself, make sure that neighbours are contacted and their needs met to the best of your abilities, and be helpful to frontline services.

Midday: It was announced that all schools in Leinster and Munster would close the following day and stay shut for the rest of the week.  

Taking stock of the worsening situation, the major Irish airlines made some decisions – with Ryanair cancelling flights from Dublin for the rest of the day and Aer Lingus warning of very significant cancellations across its short-haul flights. 

The runways and taxiways at Cork Airport were reopened after further snow clearance. 

Dublin Zoo announced it was closing. 

STORM EMMA II2A6284_90538527 Last minute shoppers stock up at the Tesco Supermarket in Newbridge, Co Kildare ahead of the 4pm 'stay indoors' advisory on 1 March. Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

1pm: The announcements were coming thick and fast at this stage.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, speaking after the emergency committee meeting, said everyone needed to be indoors by 4pm the following day when the worst of the weather was expected to hit. 

He described the weather picture as a dynamic situation that was continuing to evolve.

The emergency committee’s Sean Hogan said snow-ploughing and salting of roads would continue throughout the day.

“We have not experienced blizzard conditions since 1982,” Hogan warned. 

“Having considered the Met Éireann warning, for reasons of public safety the NECG is advising that people should not venture outdoors when the red level warning is in place in your area.”

Dublin Bus announced it would not operate the following day. Bus Éireann said it would not operate in Munster and Leinster. Irish Rail said it would begin to shut down services at midday. 

Evelyn Cusack of Met Éireann, speaking at the emergency briefing, said gale force winds with gusts of about 110km/h would hit once Storm Emma arrived in Ireland.

2pm: Met Éireann again updated its original red warning.

3pm: With work impossible to get to for many people and kids at home from school, families got out and about and made the most of the conditions. (Not that everyone made a decision to go and do this in unison at 3pm or anything … to be honest not that much happened between 2 and 4 but, dammit, we have a format to stick to).

Photographer Eamonn Farrell captured this scene in the Curragh….

THE BEAST FROM THE EAST II2A5653_90538347 Source: Eamonn Farrell

4pm: Workers who had made it into Dublin in the morning began to head home after Dublin Bus announced the last services would depart the city centre at 7pm. 

Major businesses announced changes to their hours for the following day, including Lidl which said it would close all stores in Leinster and Muster by 3pm. 

The gardaí said they were expecting “zero visibility” on the roads by the following afternoon and asked everyone in Leinster and Munster to stay indoors after four. 

0059 Beast from the East Press_90538689 Source: Rollingnews.ie

5pm: Met Éireann updated its warnings again. 

Children’s hospitals in Dublin announced they would cancel all planned admissions and outpatient appointments for the next two days. 

At the emergency planning centre the big guns were wheeled out as the Taoiseach took to the podium to make an appeal that would be carried on main evening news broadcasts. 

He said that in a blizzard scenario there could be a “total wipeout” by the next afternoon. 

6pm:  TheJournal.ie reader Sinéad Casey sent us this spectacular picture of Annagassan, Co Louth, from earlier in the day. 

23 Source: Sinead Casey

7pm: More flight cancellations for the next day, from both Dublin and Cork, were confirmed. 

8pm: Householders across the country headed to the shops to stock up ahead of the next day’s storm. 

Shelves stripped of sliced pans were a familiar sight even at this point. The first pictures like the one below began to appear on social media two days previously on 26 February. 

bread1 Source: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie

9pm: The transport and travel announcements began to die down – with most operators deciding not to run Thursday services at all in areas affected by the red alert.

10pm: Things finally began to quieten down in TheJournal.ie’s newsroom, where we had now ended our liveblog. Dublin Zoo issued some very nice pics of the day’s wintry scenes.

elep

11pm: Just when it looked like things were winding down, Met Éireann issued a late, late weather alert extending the red warning to the entire country. 

As we know, the weather didn’t ease completely until late Sunday, with slow-thawing snow causing problems in some areas of the country – particularly the south-east – for days after that.

This was the scene at Met Éireann’s HQ in Glasnevin in Dublin in the early hours of the following day, 1 March…

met1 Source: Met Éireann

The country hunkered down.

Tea was made.

Ryan Tubridy worried if anyone would make it to the Late Late. 

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