Belfast Telegraph

Schools close due to bad weather

Dozens of schools in Northern Ireland have closed because of bad weather.

Snow showers continued overnight and gritting and ploughing of affected roads has taken place, according to Stormont's Regional Development Department.

The North West around Londonderry saw its second day of disruption due to the conditions and public transport services were suspended.

Police have advised motorists to take care when travelling, particularly when driving on untreated roads.

Areas of counties Fermanagh, Armagh and Tyrone were also affected by the wintry conditions, with snow expected to turn to rain later.

A TransportNI spokesman said: "The TransportNI Winter Service programme is fully resourced.

"There has been no reduction in services across Northern Ireland.

"Over the last couple of days in many areas our teams have been working around the clock battling against severe weather conditions in efforts to keep roads passable."

Compacted snow and ice on steeper gradients around Derry city and near Dromore in west Tyrone is causing traffic queues.

Additional resources including external contractors have been deployed to address the problem.

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy advised motorists to take extra care.

Until the middle of April almost 300 staff and over 120 gritters will be on standby every night to ensure main roads are salted.

Mr Kennedy added: "A large number of these gritters have been replaced this season to improve the reliability in this important service.

"Salt barns and stockpiles have also been filled to capacity and TransportNI is now holding stocks of almost 110,000 tonnes of salt."

The winter service operation is a massive logistical undertaking that involves salting around 7,000 kilometres of main roads in just over three hours across Northern Ireland at a cost of approximately £80,000 per night.

During periods of prolonged snow, all gritters are fitted with snow ploughs and efforts directed to clearing snow from motorways and the trunk roads, before moving to other main roads and the busiest urban link roads.

In very deep snow, TransportNI uses its snow blowers, the latest of which can shift 1,600 tonnes of snow an hour.

Following a severe weather warning, with wind gusts of up to 75mph forecast for later this afternoon and overnight, the company which runs the power network has warned of a possibility of damage to the infrastructure.

Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) said the risk was especially pronounced in exposed and coastal locations.

The company has initiated an escalation plan and has emergency crews, engineers and call handlers on standby.

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