Big chill returns to Northern Ireland
Dig out that snow gear you panic-bought in December — forecasters are warning the big freeze is back this weekend.
The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning, predicting that rain spreading from the south west today is likely to turn to snow, with the potential for a blanket of between 5 and 10cm — mainly over hills but with a risk of similar amounts at lower levels later.
Tomorrow is expected to see heavy snow over parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland with a risk of as much as 20 to 30cm, particularly over higher ground.
This is predicted to ease and turn to rain through the day across Northern Ireland.
Yesterday, reports were coming in of widespread hail showers, even while bright spring sunshine was blazing down.
The Met Office warned that despite a bright start today, cloud and rain, sleet and snow would spread across Northern Ireland, with some significant snow possible even at low levels.
The weekend outlook is for rain and snow clearing to sunny spells and wintry showers tomorrow, but mainly dry and bright on Sunday.
The last time Northern Ireland was swept by wintry weather just before Christmas, temperatures plummeted to the lowest on record and conditions sparked chaos as workers were left unable to travel.
The Christmas and New Year holiday period proved challenging as tens of thousands of homes were left without heat or water, first because of frozen pipes and then due to bursts during the thaw.
Andy Ratcliffe of forecasters Meteogroup said dry spells would be followed by outbreaks of rain spreading east, starting light but liable to turn heavier later today, with a chance of turning wintry over higher ground.
“Tonight will see unsettled outbreaks of rain for most places with further rain tomorrow.
“Sunday will be bright with lingering rain clearing from eastern areas. Skies will be brighter but with a chance of a few showers in western parts.”
Last year a similar pattern was seen with a prolonged cold snap in January and February giving way to milder weather, but wintry showers returning to wreak havoc at Easter.
In the run-up to Easter week, motorists had to be rescued from their cars on the Glenshane Pass and thousands of sheep were killed after drifts of snow formed over higher ground.