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Latest: Met Éireann issues three further weather warnings

Met Éireann has issued another three weather warnings, forecasting life-threatening weather conditions, including snow blizzards and 100kmp/h winds. Non-emergency services are to being shut down in many areas of the country.

    The Big Freeze - what we know so far:

  • Current weather warnings: Red Snow-Ice alert for Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Meath, Orange Snow-Ice alert for Cork, Waterford and Wexford;
  • Thursday's weather warnings: Three Snow-Ice warnings valid until noon tomorrow. Previous Status Red Snow-Ice warning for Munster and Leinster & Status Orange Warning for Connacht, Cavan and Monaghan, remain in effect;
  • Planned admissions and outpatient appointments for children at at Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght hospitals in Dublin have been cancelled tomorrow.
  • Fuel allowance to be doubled for this week;
  • Schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Leinster and Munster, as well as all non-essential public services in Cork and Dublin cities, to close on Thursday and Friday
  • HSE: Non-essential services in Munster and Leinster will not operate on Thursday and Friday. Non-urgent outpatients and most elective work cancelled. 'Some difficulties' anticipated in Connacht and Ulster.
  • Bus Eireann: PSO and Expressway services in the east seriously affected; Expressway services out of Dublin cancelled; no services in Leinster and Munster on Thursday or until noon Friday, services in Connacht and Ulster "subject to road conditions";
  • Luas: Luas trams will run tomorrow on both lines approximately every 30 minutes until midday, when services will end;
  • Dublin Bus: Last departures to and from the city centre at 7pm tonight. No services Thursday, no decision yet on Friday services.
  • Dublin Airport : More than 400 flights have now been cancelled; Some Ryanair flights cancelled for Thursday
  • Cork Airport : Open but there are flight cancellations and delays; Some Ryanair flights cancelled for Thursday
  • Shannon Airport : Fully operational;
  • Irish Rail: Services are operating with some cancellations today. Services will operate up to lunchtime tomorrow with some exceptions. No Friday morning services;
  • ESB: Some power outages reported around the country;

Update 10pm: Planned admissions and outpatient appointments at the three children's hospitals have been cancelled tomorrow.

All appointments at Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght hospitals in Dublin will be rescheduled as a priority.

Anyone who attends the emergency departments will be seen.

Meanwhile, the ISPCC has announced its Childline service will be closed from now until tomorrow morning, due to fears about the safety of its volunteers in the expected weather conditions.

It is only the second time in 30 years that Childline has been closed.

Update 7pm: Another three weather warnings have been issued by Met Éireann as large areas of the country prepare to effectively shut down tomorrow and Friday.

An updated Status Red Snow-ice Warning for Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Meath was issued this evening.

The alert warns that "further disruptive heavy snow showers are expected overnight with significant accumulations".

A Status Orange Snow-ice Warning for Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Wexford, Offaly, Westmeath, Cavan, Galway and Cork stated: "Further snow showers tonight and on Thursday morning with significant accumulations expected".

A Status Yellow Snow-ice Warning was also issued for for Donegal, Monaghan, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.

This warns of "scattered snow showers tonight and on Thursday morning with some accumulations".

All three warnings are in effect and are valid until noon tomorrow.

The previous Status Red Snow-ice Warning for Munster and Leinster and Status Orange warning for remaining counties remain in effect and are valid until noon on Friday.

The ISPCC announced, with regret, that Childline will close its call, text and web chat services from 10pm tonight until 8am tomorrow.

"Any child or young person in danger, or in need of immediate help, in Ireland tonight should contact the emergency services at 999 or 112," it stated.

Update 5.50pm: Chair of the National Emergency Coordination Group Sean Hogan has warned the public in areas subject to a Status Red weather warning to avoid driving tomorrow.

Motorists have been warned that there will be zero visibility.

"It would be suicidal to go driving in the conditions [expected tomorrow]," he said.

"Ordinary snow, I suppose, is difficult enough conditions for motorists, and certainly for the authorities, to work around them.

"That is why we're saying to people - do not be out there from four o'clock tomorrow evening."

Today, power outages have been reported in Killinick (Wexford), Gloucester Place (Dublin), Dunleer (Louth), Roscommon, Loughrea (Galway), Fairhill and Kilbarry (both Cork).

Met Éireann has warned that temperatures could plummet to as low as -8C tonight.

Update 4.54pm: All non-emergency services are to shut down across Ireland as the country as potentially life-threatening Arctic weather and blizzards approach Ireland.

Up to 16cm of snow has already been recorded in parts of the east, with forecasters predicting that accumulations could reach 25cm tomorrow.

Met Éireann 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 - is predicted to be the worst winter weather since the snow storms of 1982.

Blizzards are expected to strike from 4pm on Thursday afternoon as the polar conditions mix with Storm Emma's gales, up to 100km/h.

Sean Hogan, senior official in the National Emergency Coordination Group said: "The NECG is advising that people should not venture out of doors while the red level warning is in place in your area."

Bus, Irish Rail and Luas services in Dublin and surrounding counties are being cancelled tomorrow.

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.

Schools, colleges and childcare facilities will be closed on Thursday and Friday in Leinster and Munster. School principals will make individual decisions elsewhere.

Hospital appointments were among the other services severely disrupted, with three children's hospitals cancelling planned admissions and outpatient appointments tomorrow and Friday.

Met Éireann said that the snow will continue until the weekend, including some wintry showers on Saturday.

Update 4.22pm: Dublin Bus will suspend services from 7pm tonight and all through tomorrow.

"Last departures to and from the city centre will be at 19.00," a statement read.

"Our focus is on operating our services to get customers and employees home safely this evening.

It adds: "Dublin Bus will not be in a position to operate any services tomorrow, Thursday, 1 March.

"We will monitor the situation closely tomorrow and take advice from Met Éireann and the National Emergency Co-ordination Committee regarding our services on Friday, 2 March."

Update 3.25pm: People in Leinster and Munster are being warned not to go outside from 4pm tomorrow until midday on Friday when the Status Red weather alert is in place.

Schools, colleges and childcare facilities throughout these provinces will be closed for the two days.

All non-essential government public service offices will be closed tomorrow, while Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann services in Leinster and Munster will not operate. There will also be severe disruption to other rail, DART and Luas services.

The worst of the blizzard is expected tomorrow afternoon when Storm Emma moves in from the south meets the polar front.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who attended the National Emergency Coordination group meeting earlier today, said employers should discuss with staff whether they need to come to work:

"We will see blizzard-like conditions and zero visibility," he said.

"This is not weather that people should be out in. People should plan to be at home until noon of the following day, Friday.

"This is in the interests of public safety, which is our primary concern."

People are being advised to clear snow from footpaths while they can to avoid it becoming compacted and to check up on their elderly relatives and neighbours.

Update - 2.48pm: An Post have suspended its postal services within the Red Alert warning counties - Dublin, Louth Wicklow, Kildare and Meath.

They have also said that all post offices in the Red Alert area will close at 3pm today, and where possible, post offices in the Red Alert area will be open between 9am and 1pm tomorrow.

Outside of that area, post offices will be open for the rest of today, and normal services will be maintained where possible tomorrow.

Lidl have decided to close all stores in Leinster and Munster from 3pm tomorrow until 1pm on Friday.

The retailer said: "Decisions may be taken at individual store level to extend this closure period depending on localised weather conditions."

2.13pm: People urged to stay indoors as emergency group warns of blizzard conditions not seen since 1982

Sean Hogan has been updating a meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group.

He said: "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 heavy snow and strong winds.

"For reasons of public safety, people should not venture out of doors while the red level warning is in place."

In the south-east this morning, 26 army officers have been called out to support communities.

In Cork, they brought palliative care staff to house-bound patients while in Wexford and Waterford they helped take people to hospitals.

The Defence Forces also delivered meals on wheels and cleared snow from Kilkenny city, while in Kildare they provided support to nursing homes and delivered a snow plough.

Coach operator, Matthews.ie, have suspended all routes tomorrow, and will announce by 6pm tomorrow if they will operate on Friday.

The coach company operates 133 services a day between the north-east and Dublin.

Passengers will be kept updated through their Facebook page.

University of Limerick will be closed tomorrow and Friday, and hopes to reopen on Saturday.

They said all classes, events and activities for the two days are cancelled and there will be no access to University Buildings.

Student residences will remain open, and all student village receptions will also stay open and security will be in place to support on-campus residents.

1.37pm: People urged to stay indoors tomorrow; Social welfare payments to be paid a day earlyThe Department of Social Protection says social welfare payments will be available tomorrow.

It has made arrangements with An Post and banks to provide the payment a day early, due to the severe weather.

However, there may be circumstances where post offices have to close to due worsening weather conditions.

12.55pm: Tomorrow's Dublin Bus services cancelled; All schools in Munster and Leinster to close tomorrow

The National Emergency Co-ordination Committee has advised people in areas affected by the red weather alert to stay indoors tomorrow.

There will be no Dublin Bus services tomorrow and there will be limited Luas and Dart services with all schools in Munster and Leinster closing tomorrow for the rest of the week.

Ryanair has cancelled all its services in and out of the airport for the rest of the day and Aer Lingus has warned of significant cancellations on short haul flights.

Dublin Bus services are operating with delays today on main roads only due to poor road conditions.

The bus operator said: "Due to the latest forecast issued by Met Éireann and information received from the National Emergency Co-ordination Committee, Dublin Bus will not be in a position to operate any services tomorrow, Thursday 29 February.

"Customers can also get updates on our Twitter account or call our customer service line on (01) 8734222."

The Department of Education issued a statement confirming that all schools, third-level institutions, colleges and centres of further education in red alert areas in Munster and Leinster will be closed tomorrow and Friday.

They said: "In relation to Connacht and Ulster decisions on school closures will be made individually depending on the circumstances in their area. The situation in Connacht and Ulster will be kept under review."

Update - 11.35am: Met Eireann have issued a Status Red Snow-Ice warning for Munster and Leinster.

The forecaster says they are predicting "blizzard-like" conditions with heavy snow and strong winds.

It is valid from 4pm on Thursday afternoon until midday on Friday.

They have also issued a Status Orange Snow-ice Warning for Connacht, Cavan and Monaghan which is valid from 8pm tomorrow to midday on Friday.

The National Emergency Coordination Group also met for the third time today to discuss how to deal with the situation.

The weather is due to get worse tomorrow, with Storm Emma moving from the south and expected to bring a blizzard.

A red snow-ice warning has now been issued for tomorrow afternoon until Friday, with the advice to avoid unnecessary travel

Forecaster Joan Blackburn warned that later tomorrow a band of snow will move across the country.

"That is expected to give the worst of ts snowfall through Munster and Leinster and a red weather warning is in operation"

10.58am: More colleges close as Met Eireann waits to see if Emma and the Beast will hit harder

Cork Institute of Technology and the National Maritime College of Ireland in Co. Cork will close at 1pm today and remain closed tomorrow.

A decision about opening on Friday will be made at 2pm tomorrow.

An aerial view of Kinsale Harbour in Co. Cork this morning. Pic. John Allen

UCC's Emergency Management Team has decided to end classes, lectures and labs today at 3pm.

Staff may leave early, as necessary, from 3pm to ensure their safe return home. The University will be closed from 6pm this evening – all night classes will be cancelled and the university will remain closed tomorrow due to anticipated worsening weather conditions overnight.

A decision about whether or not the University will open on Friday will be taken at lunchtime on Thursday. They will email all students and staff on Thursday by 2pm at the latest.

Information will also be posted on the UCC Facebook page and on UCC's Twitter account as well as the UCC home page in the News and Views Section.

Most schools in eastern counties are closed today and the Minister for Education said the department is monitoring the situation.

Most affected third-level institutions are also closed today including UCD, WIT and DBS, while DCU will stay closed until Monday.

We should know by this afternoon if the weather will worsen over the next 24 hours.

Storm Emma is forecast to arrive tomorrow bringing blizzard like conditions, but Met Eireann's John Eagleton says we won't know how bad it will be until later today.

He said: "The one you are talking about tomorrow night, that's Emma and the Beast, the jury is still out on that one, we're not fully sure if that's going to be a complete snow event.

"The midday prognosis charts that come out with the model, they will be in this afternoon, that's when we'll make the decision."

10.27am: Weather impacts HSE services amid Red Snow-Ice warning

The HSE has said that its services are being impacted due to the severity of the weather conditions.

In a statement, the HSE said it has a 'Severe Weather Plan' in place.

They have advised patients who have a hospital, GP or health centre appointment today to contact the facility to ensure it is still taking place.

The HSE said: "Do not make any unnecessary journeys and if you need to cancel a scheduled HSE appointment because you are unable travel, please make contact with the facility to advise them."

The HSE in Midlands Louth Meath Community Health Organisation has confirmed it will be focusing on essential services only as long as the Red Alert status remains.

All non-essential services are cancelled in that area until further notice.

The HSE said: "We are appealing to people to check that they are stocked up with any medicines and health care supplies they may need this week. Remember you may not be able to get to a pharmacy due to poor conditions."

You can check the HSE website or HSELive for contact details of HSE services and facilities. All updated information can be found on www.hse.ie/weatherwarning.

9.50am: Govt announces doubling of fuel allowance after Red Snow-Ice warning

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty says fuel allowance will be doubled for this week.

Around 330,000 people will benefit from the extra €22.50 this week to heat their homes, according to the Minister.

Commuters in parts of the country are facing major travel disruption this morning with up to 20 flights cancelled at Dublin Airport.

All Bus Eireann expressway services out of the capital have been cancelled while those operating outside the Eastern region are unable to get past the airport.

    Tips for driving in the snow from Liberty Insurance

  • Clear your entire car of snow, not just the windscreen; as you drive around corners the snow can dislodge from your roof and impact other vulnerable road users. Do not pour hot water on your windscreen to clear the snow and ice. The sudden change from cold to hot can severely damage the glass;
  • Only travel where absolutely necessary. Check your tyre pressure and thread depth (minimum 1.6mm);
  • Try to avoid steep inclines on snowy roads. If you can’t avoid a snowy hill, make sure to keep your momentum to avoid getting stuck;
  • Be aware of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and be mindful of your surroundings;
  • Drive slowly. If you cannot avoid driving in freezing conditions, reduce your speed below the speed limit to appropriately respond to patches of ice and snow;
  • Avoid sudden starts and stops. On slippery roads, be sure to avoid quickly accelerating and braking to prevent losing control of your vehicle;
  • Avoid using your fog lights unless absolutely necessary. Fog lamps will dazzle other road users, especially when the white snow on the road is reflecting the light back up at them. If you’re in any doubt about which lights to use, put yourself in the position of other drivers on the road;
  • If you do start to skid on a patch of slippery road, avoid using the brakes as this will prolong the skid. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator to allow yourself to reduce speed until you can gain control of the car;
  • Stock A Winter Emergency Kit. In the event that you do have to pull over during heavy snowfall or find yourself with a broken-down vehicle, be prepared with a winter emergency kit. Recommended items include: a hi-visibility jacket, a flashlight and batteries, hand-warmers, blankets, drinking water, shovel and ice scraper, jumper cables, and standalone emergency lights;
  • Have a fully charged mobile phone to hand so you can call for assistance in the event of an emergency;
  • Finally, don’t panic! Home insurance and motor insurance policies apply as normal in a storm. Insurance cover is not impacted by the weather conditions.

Meanwhile, homelessness charity Depaul are to keep more than 200 emergency one-night-only beds open 24hrs a day during the severe weather forecast for this week.

Facilities at Brú Aimsir, Little Britain Street, Mount Brown and Blessington Street will remain open 24 hrs until Sunday, March 4.

Depaul management and staff have agreed to work additional shifts and have made provisions to extend its opening hours.

Depaul CEO Kerry Anthony said: “The stark homeless figures of 9,104 men, women and children announced by the Department for Housing on Tuesday are all the more worrying at times of dangerous weather conditions like the country is experiencing this week.

"Homeless adults that rely on emergency hostels are particularly vulnerable during severe weather, and there are now 329 more homeless adults than there were in December, 207 of which are in Dublin.

"To be without a secure home during such conditions can be frightening and really brings to reality the danger of being homeless."

9.16am: Colleges and schools closed in counties with Red Snow-Ice alert, Army on standby

Most third-level institutions in Dublin have announced that they are closed for the day.

UCD, DCU and DBS have all tweeted that they will remain closed for the day.

Update - 8.36am: The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Army is on standby during the cold weather.

Order of Malta Volunteers and their vehicles throughout the country have been placed on standby to help the HSE and National Ambulance Service over the coming days.

Captain Adrian Fallon, National Emergency Planning and Communications Officer said: “It is great to be part of a large community of volunteers who are willing to give their time to assist their colleagues in the Statutory Service and their local communities.

"This process highlights the excellent working relationship between all parties, both voluntary and statutory, on how we can come together to plan and prepare for the good of those around the country who need assistance.”

Some of the snowfall in Togher, Cork city today. Pic: Denis Minihane.

Dublin Chamber has called on employers to minimise the need for their staff to travel today and to plan for further disruption over the coming days.

The Chamber said that while red alert warnings remain in place and with further significant snowfall expected, businesses should take necessary steps to ensure that their staff remain safe.

Dublin Chamber’s Head of Public Affairs Graeme McQueen said: “It’s important that people and employers pay attention to any warnings or messages from Met Eireann, the Road Safety Authority, transport providers and other official channels. The weather is likely to change during the course of the day, with more snow forecast, meaning that journeys which are possible now may not be possible later.

"The number one priority for any business during adverse weather events should be the safety and well-being of staff, clients and customers. We would encourage all employers to keep up-to-date with weather warnings and to put contingency arrangements in place, which plan for both worst and best case scenarios.

"Businesses may wish to consider whether it is possible for some workers to work from home or remotely, if required. In the event of travel disruption, firms may also think about more flexible working hours to give staff adequate time to get to and from work," said Mr McQueen.

Court sittings have been cancelled anywhere there is a red alert today, with facilities staying shut in the east tomorrow and Friday.

Cases should still go ahead however in the rest of the country.

8.03am: No school buses operating in counties with Red Snow-Ice alert, major transport disruption, 16cm of snow in Kildare

Met Eireann's John Eagleton has said that there has been up to 16cm of snow in Kildare overnight, with a more typical figure being 5cm to 6cm.

The forecaster said it is still falling and heading towards 8cm.

Bus Eireann says there is major disruption to its services in the east and school transport services not operating in Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow.

Irish Rail says its services are operating but with delays.

The Luas Red Line is operating from Tallaght and Saggart to Belgard and from Red Cow to The Point, while the Green Line is operating from Brides Glen to Broombridge.

A Garda at last night's match between Dundalk and Limerick. Pic: Inpho.

Sean O'Neill from Transport Infrastructure Ireland says people should not make unnecessary journeys:

He said: "There's a good resource now that has been announced yesterday for all travel and all information regarding schools, etc at gov.ie.

"If you want any traffic updates specific to national networks and feeder roads, you can go to tiitraffic.ie."

People are being urged to make sure their homes are heated safely during the cold weather.

The public is being reminded to ensure proper ventilation and keep an eye on open fires.

Marguerite Cotter from Phonewatch has some advice for doing it safely.

"Make sure you use the fire guard," she said.

"Don't leave the fire overly flaiming when you are going to bed; if you are using heaters, make sure you don't cover them.

The scene in Tallaght this morning. Pic: Steph Pixi via Facebook.

"The vent is a big one; make sure you don't cover the vents when it is very cold.

"Then it is important to make sure your smoke and you carbon monoxide alarms are working well."

7.30am: Red Snow-Ice alert issued, up to 25cm of snow forecast, transport in Dublin significantly disrupted

The Education Minister Richard Bruton has tweeted to say that decisions on school closures will be made locally by each school depending on circumstances in their area.

He says the Department of Education will continue to monitor the situation and will update further throughout the day.

Dublin Airport has also announced that they have cleared their runways and their flights are due to resume.

Their departures road has also reopened after being cleared.

6.27am: Red Snow-Ice alert issued, up to 25cm of snow forecast, transport in Dublin significantly disrupted

It follows a very cold night, with snow showers in parts of the east, south and midlands, and will remain in effect until 12pm tomorrow afternoon.

The Red Warning covers Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Meath.

The scene in Tallaght this morning. Pic: Steph Pixi via Facebook.

Met Eireann have also extended the Orange Snow-Ice warning to Cork, Waterford and Wexford, where they expect up to 8cm of snow.

It will be in place until midday tomorrow.

In the case of counties with a red weather warning, schools are likely to close today and remain closed until the warning is lifted.

The arrival of storm Emma tomorrow is set to bring further heavy snow and gale force winds.

Met Eireann says total snowfall up to midday tomorrow could reach 25cm.

However, the arrival of Storm Emma tomorrow is set to bring heavy snowfall and gale force winds.

Bus Eireann says PSO and Expressway services in the east are being seriously affected by the weather and will be providing updates on their Twitter page.

Both red and green Luas lines are operating a "significantly reduced service".

A spokesperson for the tram operator says they are assessing the lines at the moment and expect to have a clearer picture at 7.30am.

Dublin Bus is warning of significant disruption with most routes operating on a limited schedule today.

The transport operator said their services are operating on main corridors as a result of poor road conditions, and they are advising commuters to plan their journey and check our website www.dublinbus.ie for information on their route.

The firm said they will endeavour to operate as many services as possible, and customers can get updates on our Twitter account @dublinbusnews or by calling their customer service line on (01) 8734222.

Commuters make their way home in Lucan, Co. Dublin, last night as the first snow arrives. Pic: Collins

The departures road to Terminal 1 at Dublin Airport has been closed.

Crews working to clear the runways have suspended their operations due to the heavy snow falls.

The DAA is advising passengers to contact their airlines for the latest flight information.

Irish Rail says DARTs are running as normal.