Weather: Temperatures plummet as Northern Ireland remains in grip of big freeze
An amber weather warning was extended as the big freeze continued to sweep across Northern Ireland last night, with temperatures forecast to plunge as low as -8C.
Blankets of snow have covered most of the country since Friday morning, creating havoc on the roads and causing power cuts in rural areas.
More than 20cm of snow fell on high ground while some urban areas felt the chill with 7cms falling, and treacherous conditions caused by ice.
Widespread frost and scattered light wintry overnight showers produced more icy patches this morning as the temperature was expected to plummet to -8 °C in the early hours on high ground.
Across Northern Ireland extra gritters were deployed, and assistance staff were put on 24 hour standby to treat main roads and help keep traffic moving.
Both Belfast's City and International airports cancelled flights to London Heathrow and Birmingham leaving hundreds stranded.
Among those stuck in England were demonstrators from far-right movement Britain First, who were due to stage a rally outside Belfast City Hall yesterday in protest at a charge brought against their deputy leader Jayda Fransen following comments made in a speech in the city earlier this year. Yesterday's rally was cancelled when many of the protesters were left stranded at Luton Airport.
Meanwhile Martin Malseed (61) from Holywood flew to Birmingham on Friday evening to promote his weight loss product Isagenix, and ended up stranded there. His flight home was cancelled due to the snow.
Speaking from Birmingham he said: "I've booked another flight for Monday. There's snow all over the pavements here and the taxis are taking a long time to get people around the city. On the bright side I get to spend another night here in this wonderful city and easyJet will be refunding me."
Mr Malseed would have been playing front row for Perennial RFC if he'd made it home. "I would have been playing rugby against Monaghan," he explained, adding: "Snow is a UK-wide problem, everyone is doing their best. There is no point in moaning about it, the best we can do is just get on with it."
Met Office spokesperson Oli Claydon said today would see a thaw with a maximum temperature of 4°C. Rain is forecast from tomorrow through to Thursday but it will remain cold. According to Met Office UK, Northern Ireland experienced an even colder snap on Christmas Eve 2010, with a low of -18.7 °C.