Belfast Telegraph

Weather alert: Northern Ireland sees thaw before Ice Age Part II

By Jonathan Brown

Northern Ireland is set for a brief respite from the big freeze with weather experts predicting a thaw in the icy conditions towards the end of this week.

Last week’s Arctic blast covered large parts of the province with a blanket of snow combined with temperatures as low as -12C in some parts.

The sub-zero temperatures caused travel chaos for thousands of people and forced the closure of scores of schools across Northern Ireland.

Temperatures last night fell to -6C in some areas and there was widespread frost throughout the province overnight.

Forecasters warned of between 2cm and 5cm of snow combined with freezing rain in some parts throughout today making some roads treacherous and the risk of black ice prevalent.

Similar conditions are predicted tomorrow and Wednesday — albeit with the odd sunny spell — though we are set for milder weather from Thursday onwards, according to the experts.

“Towards the end of this week it looks like Northern Ireland is set for some milder weather,” a spokesman for weather forecasters MeteoGroup told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

“Temperatures are set to rise quite a bit, possibly to a maximum of 8C, meaning the nights should be a lot milder.”

Showers are expected to replace the snow throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

But temperatures are to plummet again from Sunday onwards, with a return of sub-zero conditions and snowfall predicted.

For the remainder of December and into the start of the new year, temperatures look set to remain well below average for much of the UK, with often widespread frost and ice.

A spokesman for Belfast International Airport said it was a case of business as usual in recent days, despite the weather, and it was the same story at Belfast City Airport with flights largely unaffected.

Meanwhile, the thousands of people still awaiting their cold weather benefits should receive them today or tomorrow.

A computer glitch prevented 13,700 people in Northern Ireland getting the vital payments.

Those affected did not receive their payment last Wednesday but have been reassured by the Department for Social Development they will have it by tomorrow at the latest.

The glitch originated at the central processing centre in Norcross, England.

The people affected are in an area serviced by the Katesbridge weather station in Banbridge — close to where a new record low temperature was recorded.



Cold comforts: How they keep warm around the world



Sweden David Landes, Stockholm



Life doesn't stand still when winter comes. The biggest problem is people forgetting to switch over to snow tyres, which you have to do by law.



The airport in Stockholm usually keeps running. The rail infrastructure copes, although last year there were substantial problems, with lots of commuter train delays.



We don't have heated roads, but we do have some heated bus shelters. One of the dangers in a Swedish winter is icicles – every year someone is killed by a chunk of ice falling off a building.



Top tip: Long Johns. There is a saying in Sweden: "Det finns ingen dåligt väder, bara dålig kläder." It means: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes." Wear thermal underwear and you can withstand anything. A nice hat and gloves help too.





Norway Dyveke Nilssen, Bergen



As a winter country we always laugh when snow brings London to a halt, but we're just as bad. Our first snow was in October. It was chaotic and the newspapers were saying things like: "Will we never learn?" The main problem was that it was so early and people hadn't changed to winter tyres. Motorists were queueing up outside tyre-fitting shops. Norway is quite a small country and we don't have the same public transport networks, so we are much more dependent on cars.



Heated pavements are common in the centre of the cities. One of the big problems is frozen pipes, and electricity prices always go up in winter. This is a bad winter – Bergen is usually not so cold but this year it is already -10C to -15C.



Top tip: Anything woolly. Wear wool close to the skin.



Russia Miriam Elder, Moscow



Everything swings into place at the first sign of winter – well, as much as anything can swing into place in Russia. The minute it snows, the trucks come out and clear the streets. There are never delays at the airports – you can take off in February in -40C – and the trains always run on time. Life goes on.



Lots of people die from icicle injuries every year. There was a scandal last year when municipal workmen were clearing icicles from the city buildings and throwing the ice into the street, and smashing car windscreens. Around 300 people freeze to death on the streets each year.



Top tip: Layering and shopping. I wear tights under jeans, T-shirts under sweaters, and I hop in and out of the shops so that I keep warm.



Canada Paul Rodgers, Winnipeg



Dog sleds, snow-shoes and cross-country skies are strictly for recreation in Winnipeg, though the city is snow-covered from early November to late April and temperatures routinely fall below -20C. The city is well prepared. Heavy snow brings convoys of ploughs on to major roads in the middle of the night. Lesser roads take a few days to clear, though drivers will still use them. Cars are plugged in overnight, as electric heaters stop the oil from freezing.



The worst Manitoba blizzard I experienced was in 1986, with 30cm of snow, 90km/h winds and zero visibility. Drifts rose to several metres and tracked armoured personnel carriers were used as ambulances.



Top tip: The first lesson Manitoba children learn about surviving winter is: "Don't lick anything metal; your tongue will stick."



Iceland Hjörvar Sæberg Högnason, Reykjavik



Winters in Iceland are milder now than when I was growing up. You used to be able to guarantee a white Christmas, but not now.



We still get snow from January to March, though, and councils in Reykjavik and surrounding towns work round the clock gritting and salting the streets. Reykjavik is heated geothermally, including many of the pavements and some of the roads if they are on a steep hill.



We go to "hot pots", which are like hot tubs and big enough for several people. I can think of about 10 or 11 in Reykjavik, for a population of about 150,000.



Top tip: Cod liver oil. And the woollen socks that my 86-year-old grandfather knits for me for Christmas.





United States David Usborne, New York



New York swings into action at the first sign of snow like a well-oiled machine. The instant that snow is forecast, there are snow chains on all the buses, and they put snow ploughs on all the garbage trucks to help clear the streets. The schools have a "snow day" notification system and commuter trains are rarely affected as they have overhead lines.



It's not all good. Midtown Manhattan can get very slushy and nasty and the wind whistles between the skyscrapers.



Top tip: Long Johns from L L Bean.





Afghanistan Julius Cavendish, based in Kabul



It's very difficult getting around in winter – it snows, then it melts and everything turns to mud, or ice. When you're trying to travel around, you get filthy. Afghan homes are heated with stoves, or bukhari. In poorer homes, there will be only one bukhari. Around 1,500 people die of exposure every year – not because of drinking, because they don't drink, but because there is nothing in the way of a welfare state and people have a low life expectancy of just 42. In the mountains it can get as low as -50C and even in Helmand, which is low-lying desert, it is below -20C at the moment.



Top tip: Make sure you get plenty to eat and drink.

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