Belfast Telegraph

Christmas travel fears as 90mph gales are forecast

By LINDA STEWART

Northern Ireland faces a stormy Christmas Eve of travel chaos and power cuts as gale force winds of up to 90mph sweep in.

Forecasters have issued a severe weather warning for tomorrow, predicting high winds and heavy rain as thousands of people battle to get home.

Meanwhile, bookies have slashed the odds of a white Christmas, as forecasters reveal heavy rain could turn to wintry showers by the time Santa goes on his rounds.

Forecasters warned of "potentially damaging gusts" of up to 90mph, which could be experienced during the storms predicted today and tomorrow.

Saturday night revellers reported snow in Fermanagh and Ballymena, while Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness tweeted a photo of lying snow on the Glenshane Pass at 6.15am yesterday.

Trafficwatch warned of icy conditions from early yesterday evening, predicting wintry showers overnight. The Roads Service website said salting of the roads would start from mid-afternoon.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning of a rapidly deepening area of low pressure bringing very strong winds across Scotland and Northern Ireland tomorrow.

"There is the likelihood of widespread gales, with gusts to around 70mph for much of Scotland and Northern Ireland," said a spokesman.

"Gusts of 80-90mph are possible, the greatest likelihood of these values being towards the northwest, where there will also be frequent wintry showers."

NIE said it was monitoring the situation carefully and is finalising plans to mobilise crews for any potential damage to the network on Christmas Eve. The company said duty incident teams and local incident teams were already on standby to deal with power cuts.

Forecasters Meteogroup said that a deepening area of low pressure would pass Northern Ireland today, bringing strong winds with "potentially damaging gusts" of up to 57mph around noon.

Spokesman John Griffiths said: "The winds are going to ease off significantly on Wednesday and there will be bright spells. But after the heavy rain on Monday, it's going to be quite a bit colder."

Yesterday, online forecaster Northern Ireland Weather issued a yellow flash warning of heavy snow showers, warning that showers would turn to sleet and lie on the hills in the evening.

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