All non-emergency services are to shut down across Ireland as the country was warned that forecasted Arctic weather and blizzards are potentially life-threatening.
Up to 16cms of snow was recorded in parts of the east, with forecasters predicting that accumulations could reach 25cms on Thursday.
But Met Eireann is warning that the combination of the Beast from the East and Storm Emma moving in from the south – dubbed “Emma and the Beast” by forecaster John Eagleton – will hit Ireland harder than anywhere else.
The impact is predicted to be the worst winter weather since snow storms in 1982.
The public have been urged to stay indoors across Leinster and Munster, most of the south and east of the country, as the provinces are under a red alert weather warning.
Blizzards are expected to strike from 4pm on Thursday afternoon as the polar conditions mix with Storm Emma’s gales, up to 100km/h.
Drivers have been warned there will be zero visibility.
Eoghan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, said: “Everyone in red areas should plan to be at home by 4pm tomorrow (Thursday).
“Our primary concern is the safety of the public over the coming days.”
Appeals are also being made for people to check in on elderly neighbours and to report sightings of rough sleepers.
Government Departments and Agencies not involved in the provision of essential services will close on Thursday and Friday in Munster and Leinster and all employers need to consider, given transport constraints and snow conditions, if it is possible or necessary for them to open— OEP (@emergencyIE) February 28, 2018
Sean Hogan, senior official in the National Emergency Coordination Group which oversees planning for major weather events, said the biggest concern was Storm Emma as it meets polar air over Ireland on Thursday.
“We have not experienced blizzard conditions since 1982 and reports from that time indicate the serious and life-threatening conditions which may be posed by the combination of heavy snow and strong winds,” he said.
“The NECG is advising that people should not venture out of doors while the red level warning is in place in your area.”
Mr Hogan urged people to heed the advice.
Met Eireann’s red alert covers Munster and Leinster from 4pm on Thursday until Friday lunchtime.
Ryanair cancelled all flights to and from Dublin Airport for the rest of Wednesday as a result of the snow which swept into Ireland overnight.
Shannon Airport handled more than a dozen flight diversions from Dublin.
Aer Lingus cancelled a large number of short haul flights out of the capital, but was aiming to keep transatlantic flights operating.
Schools and third level colleges will be closed on Thursday and Friday across counties in Leinster and Munster, covering the south and east of the country.
Creches and childcare facilities were also told to close.
In western and northern counties in the Republic, school principals will make individual decisions on whether to stay open but education chiefs said the situation was being kept under review.
Bus, Irish Rail and Luas services in Dublin and surrounding counties are also being cancelled on Thursday.
Met Eireann also said that the snow will continue until the weekend, including some wintry showers on Saturday.
But senior forecaster Evelyn Cusack said that by Sunday warmer air from the south, generated off the back of Storm Emma, should begin to dominate and may enable a thaw to begin.
Among other services severely disrupted where hospital appointments.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland, which oversees main roads around the country, said it is aiming to keep all major national routes open.
That is despite cars being abandoned near on-off ramps on some motorways as motorists experienced difficulties – in particular on the M7 and M9 motorway in Co Kildare, the N6 Dublin to Galway route in Co Westmeath and N2 near Ardee.
Weekly fuel allowance payments for the elderly and people on welfare have been doubled to 45 euro, but the Government has been criticised for failing to offer the incentive sooner.