Belfast Telegraph

Army of road workers prepare to battle 'Beast from the East' and keep Northern Ireland moving during Arctic blast

  • Officials prepare for disruption amid severe weather conditions
  • People urged to check on neighbours and take care on roads

An army of road workers, council and agency staff and even farmers are on standby to battle the "beast from the east".

Northern Ireland is bracing itself for what could be the coldest spell to hit the region in a decade. 

Overnight temperatures are forecast to plunge below freezing across the country as Arctic conditions, dubbed the “Beast from the East”, take hold.

The Met Office has again extended its weather warning for snow which now stretches from Wednesday to Friday. 

Some parts are set to feel colder than the Arctic Circle as freezing temperatures continue to the end of the week and the mercury drops five to 10 degrees lower than normal for this time of year.

Forecasters have also warned about the compounding problem of wind chill.

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Friday's Met Office warning for snow. Met Office graphic

Travel and power could be severely affected and some rural areas could be cut off, forecasters have warned.

On Monday senior civil servants held a multi-agency teleconference including Stormont departments, councils and utility companies for strategic planning.

The public have been asked to plan their journey, check in on elderly or vulnerable relatives and neighbours and take all necessary precautions to protect their property.

The Department for Infrastructure has around 300 staff and 130 gritters available to salt main roads. Twelve specialist snow blowers have been prepared while farmers and specialist contractors have been readied to help shift snow.

John Irvine from the department said: “Our winter service operation ensures that 7,000 kilometres of the road network are salted to keep traffic moving in wintry conditions. With a warning for snow and ice currently in place and some disruption on our roads likely, the department’s winter service team is fully prepared.

“So far this year 86,000 tonnes of salt has been spread on our roads and a further 60,000 tonnes is stockpiled and ready for use. Five thousand salt bins and 50,000 grit piles are provided on a self-help basis on routes not included on the salting schedule." 

He added: “Despite our best efforts it is important to remember that we cannot guarantee ice free roads even after salting. We all need to be mindful of the changing conditions and adjust the way we drive, ride or cycle to ensure it is appropriate for the conditions. The best advice is in the Highway Code, take extra care even if roads have been salted, be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances and take care when overtaking gritters.”

In the Republic of Ireland a snow-ice alert has been issued for Dublin, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Wicklow and Meath from Tuesday, with up to 6cm of snow expected to accumulate by Wednesday morning.

Met Eireann warned of widespread frost and icy conditions as it shifted its yellow status warning to orange, the next level.

As well as the warnings about snowfall, there is a low temperature warning, with lows of minus five degrees expected on Monday night.

Into Thursday potentially gale force winds, mixed with heavy snowfall, will ensure disruptive weather for many parts.

A weather system from the Portuguese Islands and known as Storm Emma is expected to bring blizzard conditions as it hits the cold air brought down by the Beast from the East.

Homeless charities have warned of the risk to life for rough sleepers while hostel beds in Dublin are to stay open 24 hours a day to help keep people off the streets.

Focus Ireland said it is working with all homeless organisations in the city to get beds for everyone on the streets.

The Simon Community appealed to people who see rough sleepers in Belfast to contact the charity.

The threat of heavy snowfalls and subsequent frozen roads is a result of winds bringing freezing temperatures from Russia and the North Pole and precipitation from air moving north from the Bay of Biscay.

The Met Office forecasts said that by the end of Wednesday more than 20cm of snow may have accumulated in some parts of eastern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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