Northern Ireland weather warning for high winds after motorists caught out by black ice
A fresh weather warning is in place for Northern Ireland today as heavy winds herald a stormy start to 2018.
The Met Office has issued a yellow alert from 6pm this evening running through until tomorrow morning. Forecaster Eileen Stamp said the warning of strong gusts will be in place until 8am tomorrow, with winds reaching up to 70mph.
It follows a chaotic start to the new year, as treacherous black ice on Northern Ireland's roads caught out early morning motorists yesterday.
Police issued an urgent warning after attending several accidents.
One of the worst affected areas was Ballymena in Co Antrim.
Hazardous driving conditions forced police to close the M2 in both directions at Ballymena between the Seven Towers roundabout and Broughshane.
One motorist complained: "The roads were horrendous this morning. They looked wet but were icy. Cars crashed in a few places and a lorry jack-knifed as well."
Motorists were advised to avoid the area and seek alternative routes after accidents were reported between the Lisnevenagh Road, Seven Towers roundabout and northbound M2.
Other main routes in the town, including Ballymoney Road, Frys Road and Cushendall Road, were described locally as "extremely dangerous", with motorists assuming that the roads had been gritted.
Police said that the roads had not been gritted and were "badly affected by patchy ice".
Braid councillor Beth Adger said although she was aware of a road traffic accident at the Ballee roundabout on the outskirts of Ballymena yesterday morning, she did not believe that there was any need for the roads to have been gritted in the district.
She said she noted a temperature of 5C on her return from a New Year's Eve Watchnight service.
The PSNI advised motorists to reduce speed and exercise caution due to "adverse weather causing difficult driving conditions on many roads in the area".
Police issued the same advice to motorists in Co Armagh, with the Tandragee Road in Newry closed due to hazardous driving conditions.
Diversions were in place between Carnbane and Jerrettspass and motorists were advised to avoid the area.
Adverse weather conditions causing difficult driving conditions were also reported on many roads in the Dungannon area of Co Tyrone.
PSNI Mid Ulster described road conditions on the A29 from Dungannon to Moy as "treacherous" and highlighted the need for caution at the Stangmore roundabout.
On New Year's Eve, the Department for Infrastructure, which is responsible for gritting Northern Ireland's road network, warned of a "risk of icy conditions on higher routes across northern and western domains before showers move across around midnight".
The Trafficwatch information service advised of black ice in the Ballymena area shortly after 8.30am, when motorists were told that gritting was under way. Motorists were urged to drive with caution.
A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said: "Temperatures were forecast to remain above freezing this morning. However, in some localised areas the temperature dipped below freezing.
"Those roads considered at risk were treated and engineers will continue to monitor the situation."
Today the weather is expected to turn wet, with forecasters predicting a band of rain will move across Northern Ireland.
The temperature is expected to rise to 8C-9C today, with lows of 4C-5C.