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Weather warnings upgraded as big freeze looms on top of snow


A coach drives through the snow on the M7 motorway in County Limerrick, near Birdhill, Ireland.

A coach drives through the snow on the M7 motorway in County Limerrick, near Birdhill, Ireland.

A coach drives through the snow on the M7 motorway in County Limerrick, near Birdhill, Ireland.

Forecasters have upgraded weather warnings amid concerns of a deep freeze on top of snowfalls.

Met Eireann issued an orange alert - its second highest - as it said temperatures will dip as low as minus 8C (18F) in some places.

The coldest parts of the country will be in east Connacht, Leinster and Ulster.

The weather warning was issued as the freeze coincides with frost, ice and lying snow throughout Sunday and it will remain in place until 10am on Monday.

Meanwhile, m otorists have been advised of dangerous conditions on roads across swathes of the country.

There are reports of snowfalls of between two and four centimetres and forecasts that as much as eight centimetres could fall in the worst affected areas.

Met Eireann intially issued a status orange alert with a snow-ice warning for Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Wicklow, Offaly, Westmeath, Meath, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Tipperary.

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It said several centimetres of snow could accumulate quite widely across the country with greater totals possible in some areas and also a risk of snow drifts locally where winds are brisk.

The alert is in place until 11pm on Sunday.

Elsewhere, across the southern part of the country a warning was issued for gale force winds across most of Munster.

Despite the wintry conditions, Bus Eireann services in the east, south, northeast and northwest have not been affected.

There was disruption to Irish Rail services running through Co Carlow where some of the heaviest snow has been recorded.

But there were reduced volumes of traffic on the roads with many motorists heeding the advice to keep movements to a minimum during the freeze.

Gardai urged people in counties affected by the orange level weather warning to exercise extreme caution when travelling and avoid unnecessary journeys.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, of the Garda's roads policing unit, said: "Please be aware that visibility is reduced in snowy conditions so drive slowly if you need to make a journey.

"Allow extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. Motorcyclists and cyclists should not compromise their safety by their 'need' to travel in icy, snowy conditions. Be safe," he said.

AA Roadwatch said the worst affected counties appear to be Kilkenny, Carlow, Laois, Westmeath, Roscommon and Mayo.

"If you're driving in such conditions today, slow down, make sure your dipped headlights are on and remember it can take up to 10 times longer to stop your vehicle so stay plenty of space from the vehicle in front," a spokesman said.

In Wicklow the Sally Gap and approach roads are impassable due to snow and ice, it said.

In Galway, the Loughrea/Ballinasloe Rd (R446) was also impassable and local gardai have advised drivers to use an alternative route.

Elsewhere heavy snow was reported on the N77 near Portlaoise and on the N52 between Birr and Tullamore while t he Thomastown/Graiguenamanagh Road in Kilkenny was almost impassable.

In Mayo bad conditions were reported in Bonniconlon, Crossmolina, Foxford and Swinford and on the N5 between Westport and Castlebar and the N26 Swinford to Ballina road.

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