Many parts of Northern Ireland were brought to a standstill today after the first major snow of the winter.
oads were impassable, schools were closed and travellers left stranded at airports following heavy overnight falls.
Police warned that general road conditions across the province were considered treacherous with heavy snow falling in a number of areas including Greater Belfast and motorists were advised to travel with extreme care.
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Conditions were particularly poor around the Ballycastle, Cushendun and Cushendall areas and in one incident a gritter became stuck on a verge after attempting to avoid an accident.
The north west escaped the worst of the weather until around 8am today at which point heavy snow showers swept in.
John Beatty of Road Service said “all hell was breaking loose”.
“There was one incident where there was an accident on the A2 at Cushendun and the gritter tried to get round the vehicles and it got stuck on the grass. If our gritters are having difficulties, then ordinary vehicles must having even more trouble,” he said.
“It’s a constantly changing situation. The area round Ballycastle, Cushendun and Cushendall is the worst affected but having said that there is snow in all areas. At times so me of the roads are pretty clear and then another snow shower comes along.”
Police said the main Hilltown to Kilkeel roads, the Church Road in Holywood and the Shaneshill Road between Larne and Ballymena were all impassable to traffic.
This morning a minor accident on the Hillhall Road between Lisburn and Belfast caused traffic to tail back as far as Lisburn. Police advised motorists to avoid all these areas.
Over 20 schools remained closed this morning after heavy falls made access impossible.
Hundreds of travellers were left stranded at all of Northern Ireland’s airports this morning.
At Belfast International Airport all BmiBaby flights to and from the East Midlands and Birmingham were cancelled this morning because of the treacherous weather conditions in those areas and the Easyjet flight to Luton was also scrapped.
Spokeswoman Deborah Matchett explained most of the delays and cancellations so far were a result of the horrific weather conditions in England – however, as heavy snow continued to fall in and around Aldergrove, there was a chance passengers could face more delays.
George Best City Airport was hardest hit this morning with the heavy snow forcing airport chiefs to divert four flights to Belfast International Airport.
One flight from the East Midlands was cancelled and all departures have been delayed. It is understood ground crew were inspecting the runway this morning.
Roads Service said 125 gritters carried out a salting run before midnight in preparation for the snow and some carried out a second run. After midnight another shift of workers continued the work.
“Since midnight we've been monitoring the situation very closely — patrols were out all night dealing with situations as they arose and we’ve dealt with them as necessary,” Mr Beatty said.
The Met Office predicted brighter or sunnier conditions to follow from the north, although it may not brighten up across Down until the late afternoon. Wintry showers will break out across Derry and north Antrim later.
Tonight sleet or snow showers are forecast across north and east Antrim, Derry and Tyrone, with long clear spells and a widespread frost across Fermanagh, Armagh and Down and brisk northwest winds around the coast.