The prayers of thousands of men, women and children were answered yesterday as Northern Ireland had its first white Christmas in five years.
Up to five cm of snow fell in low-lying areas and approximately 10cm fell on higher ground as people throughout the province celebrated the Christmas snowfall.
But not everyone welcomed the weather and the Met Office issued a severe weather warning urging motorists to drive carefully on some roads, particularly in the west.
Severe ice and rain made driving hazardous throughout the day, particularly on side roads, and Stephen Smith from the Roads Service said the fact the roads were quiet would add to the danger. “Usually the roads get cleared quite quickly because so many people are using them,” he said.
“But it being Christmas Day, there is a build-up of snow and slush in most places, particularly B roads, and this is making driving conditions treacherous.”
Bookmakers were also hit hard by the snowfall and expected to pay out thousands of pounds to punters who had bet on Christmas 2009 being a white one.
To qualify for a white Christmas, 1mm of snow must be recorded as falling between 00:00 and 23:59 on December 25 at the official weather station at Belfast International Airport.
Bookmakers slashed the odds on a white Christmas in Belfast earlier in the week, with Boylesports and Betfred offering 3/1. Paddy Power slashed their odds to 11/4 and a spokeswoman said they had seen the largest number of bets for a white Christmas this year than any other in the last five.
She said: “As soon as people start to feel the nip in the air they automatically think of snow and think it is going to be a safe bet. It was a very welcome surprise for many this year.”
More wintry showers are expected throughout today (Saturday) with temperatures dropping to minus seven in some parts.
Tonight (Saturday night):
Wintry showers continuing into the evening across much of Northern Ireland, although these will die out after midnight to leave it dry with clear spells. Southern, central and eastern parts of Scotland will see a mixture of sleet and snow showers. However, it will be a largely dry night in the north, but overcast and misty with just the slight chance of a wintry shower. England and Wales will have showers continuing in the west and rain along the southern coast of England with the chance of the occasional rumble of thunder. There will be gentle to moderate south-westerly winds with temperatures extremely low in the north but a milder night across central and southern areas.
Sunday will see early morning showers dying out in Northern Ireland and many other western areas to leave it a generally dry and bright day. However, there will be quite a few wintry showers in northern and eastern areas of Scotland which will move south throughout the day but look set to die out by the evening.
UK Outlook (Monday and Tuesday):
On Monday, after a foggy and misty start for most rain will move into the south-west but will be moving very slowly so will only reach southern and western areas of Wales and England by nightfall. Elsewhere, there will be variable cloud and sunny intervals. Tuesday will be very unsettled with rain, sleet and snow moving into the south and spreading slowly north throughout the day, not quite reaching the far north of England and Scotland, where it will be largely dry and bright.