Forecasters issued a severe weather warning today as much of Northern Ireland was battered by blizzards and torrential rain.
Motorists were warned to drive carefully after flooded roads and lying snow raised the risk of potentially lethal conditions. Ferry crossings were also cancelled as weather watchers predicted gale force winds.
Conditions were particularly treacherous on higher ground and in the north west, with reports of five inches of snow between Londonderry and Dungiven as rush hour traffic on the Glenshane Pass slowed to a crawl.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police would urge motorists to reduce their speed and drive to suit conditions.”
While the north and west of the province was hit with winter showers, the east and south was dealing with torrential rain.
The Strangford Road in Downpatrick had to be closed between Quoile Bridge and Saul Mills Road because of a landslide thought to have been caused by heavy rain.
Colin Brown, network manager for Roads Service, said gritters were on stand-by with conditions set to get worse later today, and he advised people not to make unnecessary journeys this evening.
The Met Office issued a severe weather warning and a spokesman said: “Rain will be heavy at times throughout the day, giving further accumulations of 15 to 25mm. During the afternoon as it turns colder, rain will turn to heavy snow on higher ground.
“Tonight will be cloudy with sleet and snow, giving further moderate to heavy accumulations and drifting on higher ground. There will be blizzard conditions on hills but it will turn drier in west later.
“Tomorrow will see persistent sleet and snow at first in the east then a bright day with sunny intervals and a few showers wintry on higher ground. There will be a gradual thaw of lying snow but it will be windy and again a maximum temperature of 5 °C.”
Stenaline ferry crossings were also disrupted, with the 11.45am and 5pm HSS crossing cancelled. The 1.30pm and 10.30pm Stena Navigator superferry was also cancelled, while there were doubts the superferry at 7.20pm and crossings tomorrow will travel.
All P&O Express sailings between Larne and Cairnryan were cancelled with passengers transferred to conventional ferries.