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Weather: Snow and heavy rain on way for Northern Ireland

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 11/12/2015

Flooded fields and roads near Athlone, Co Westmeath
Flooded fields and roads near Athlone, Co Westmeath

Northern Ireland is facing snow and more heavy rain this weekend as parts of the province try to recover from bad flooding.

Snow fell on higher ground in counties Londonderry and Tyrone last night, with traffic crawling along the Glenshane Pass.

Omagh and Ballygawley were badly affected and gritters were out in force on main routes.

Tomorrow looks like being cold, wet and windy early on as a rain storm moves up from the Republic. Forecasters predict more snow on higher ground as the day progresses.

Yesterday Leon Brown of the Weather Channel UK warned of a snow risk over Northern Ireland, southern Scotland and northern England tomorrow evening.

He said: "Beware if driving Saturday since there could be heavy snowfalls blocking higher routes, with 20cm possible."

A spokesman for national forecaster MeteoGroup added: "The situation is changing all the time. We thought that the storm over the Republic would not go as far as Northern Ireland, but it's now moving upwards and eastwards.

"The southern parts of Northern Ireland will get heavy rain and high winds on Saturday morning, with a cold front over the northern flank and the likelihood of snow."

John Whylie from the Met Office in Antrim said that while there was a chance of snow on high ground tomorrow, he did not think it would be widespread.

"The weather over the weekend will continue to be unsettled and changeable, wet and windy, with periods of sunshine," he added.

While some have predicted heavy snowfall, it remains too early to say if Northern Ireland will have a white Christmas.

But should temperatures plummet, the Department for Regional Development said it was geared up and ready to cope with any adverse weather conditions.

Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen announced her department's cold weather plans in October.

She promised more than 300 staff would be available every day to salt and grit roads used by 80% of the region's traffic from now until the end of next April.

While the gritters have been out periodically because of some early frost, there has been no need so far to use the eight specialist snow blower vehicles.

DRD has 70,000 tonnes of salt stockpiled with another 20,000 tonnes in reserve. It can also replenish the stocks by 15,000 tonnes each week.

Parts of Fermanagh and Tyrone remain flooded from the heavy rains last weekend.

And, unfortunately, there is every chance that these areas, as well as south Armagh and south Down, may be further hit with heavy rain and high winds by midday tomorrow.

The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is still working with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and other agencies to help people affected by the floods.

NIFRS warned people of the dangers of attempting to walk through floodwater.

Last night its western area commander Mark Deeney told the public to take care.

He said: "Even shallow water moving fast can sweep you off your feet, and there may be hidden dangers such as open drains, damaged road surfaces, submerged debris or deep channels which can result in serious injury, or in worst cases death."

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