Editor's Viewpoint: Cold weather is a real challenge
Many people often wish for a traditional 'White Christmas', but the early cold snap and severe weather have taken many by surprise.
The weekend temperatures reached a record low in Northern Ireland, with minus 9.5C at Lough Fea, which pipped the previous lowest of minus 9C at Murlough away back in 1978.
The cold weather, which shows no signs of abating, has created fun for children, who always find entertainment in icy conditions, but for the vast majority of the rest of population the low temperatures bring great challenges.
Driving conditions are hazardous, and the police and roads authorities should be heeded in their appeals for drivers and pedestrians to take extreme care. This applies particularly to the rural side roads and urban avenues and thoroughfares which provide their own dangers away from the main routes.
The bad weather adds to the general gloom and doom in these financially difficult times, but the prevailing cold will put further pressures on fuel bills and the need for home heating.
In recent weeks this newspaper has drawn attention to the distressing plight of individuals and families who cannot afford to keep warm properly, and these extremely cold conditions can only make matters worse.
It is scarcely conceivable that so many people of all ages in our modern society are experiencing such difficulties, and the inclement weather underlines starkly the need for our politicians and the professionals in the caring services to do everything possible for those trapped in fuel poverty. This, of course, is a challenge to all of us. At this time it is incumbent for everyone to try to keep an eye out for neighbours - particularly the elderly - who may be in distress.
The weather, good or bad, is often a topic of conversation, but this bitterly cold winter is underling that the sub-zero temperature is everybody's business.