Police in the Republic are set close a swathe of major roads over the weekend as supplies of salt to keep them open finally run out.
As the Irish government was last night accused of dismally failing to deal with the crisis, even more severe weather is forecast for the next 72 hours. Thousands of schools will not now reopen until well into next week at the earliest.
Local authorities are likely to run out of salt in just two days, raising fears that gardai may be forced to close roads.
Last night, Environment Minister John Gormley insisted the country would not grind to a halt as the National Roads Authority (NRA) said that “hard choices” would have to be made on which roads will stay open.
City and county councils are spreading 20,000 tonnes of salt a week to keep national routes open, but just 9,000 tonnes will be delivered next week — less than half the amount needed.
“Hard choices have already been made and the focus has been on the main national routes, which carry most of the traffic,” an NRA spokesman said.
“Now that supplies are running so low, more hard choices will have to be made.”
The NRA has been tasked with sourcing salt for local authorities and ensuring the best use of existing supplies, but it admitted it would be at least a week before new supplies — if they are available — would land here.
But the government rejected claims it had failed to respond to the crisis. Yesterday, it refused to declare the weather crisis a “national emergency”, but it did convene its interdepartmental emergency planning committee to co-ordinate a response.