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Commuters warned of further travel chaos as wintry weather takes grip

Braving the elements - on the way to the shops in Ballynahinch Co Down despite the snow. Picture Mal McCann.
Marie Louise McConville

COMMUTERS have been warned to expect further traffic disruption today as a yellow weather warning remains in place for Northern Ireland.

With chaos caused across the traffic network yesterday due to heavy snowfall, the Met Office warned that more snow showers are due today as well as strong to gale force winds, which will cause lying snow to drift.

Many schools remain closed today due to the adverse weather conditions.

Belfast International and City airports are fully operational but some flights to and from desinations in Britain have been cancelled or delayed due to heavy snow there. Airports in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Bristol are among those affected.

All flights from Dublin Airport remain suspended today but it is hoped airlines will resume early tomorrow morning.

Translink has said Enterprise trains will not be running between Belfast and Dublin. The service will continue to operate between Newry and Belfast. Bus services remain under review.

A statement from the Infrastructure Department said staff were working round the clock to clear roads.

"Conditions extremely difficult in some areas and some abandoned cars blocking roads. Wind leading to drifting in many areas.

"Only travel in this area if essential."

The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team said it was out from 5am helping essential staff reach Daisy Hill Hospital in Co Down.

"Conditions in the area are treacherous and making it impossible for many staff members to travel.

"Given that Daisy Hill provides a critical service to both the team in our role as well as the wider community, it's a privilege to be able to help."

Approximately 40 staff were supported on Thursday night, with the team active up to midnight. A further 40 were supported on Friday morning.

Conditions on the main road from Belfast towards Dublin were poor due to the weather.

Many minor country roads near Moira were impassable due to large drifts.

Yesterday, many motorists had to battle blizzard conditions during the morning rush hour.

There were also widespread delays to the public transport system. While services were cancelled in some areas, in others, buses were only operating a limited service along some main routes.

A red weather warning issued in the Republic yesterday led to many commuters struggling to get home by 4pm yesterday when Storm Emma was due to meet the 'Beast from the East'.

The National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG) advised that people should not venture outdoors while the red warning level is in place. The warning was extended to cover the entire country by Met Éireann.

The NECG said that it had made its decision because of "serious and life-threatening conditions" due to the weather.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said an "unprecedented" 40cm of snow is expected by lunchtime today.

Met Éireann warned that there will be heavy snow and strong easterly winds across Leinster and Munster from this afternoon, which will cause significant snow drifts in many areas.

Chairman of the Republic's National Emergency Co-ordination Group. Sean Hogan, said the priority was public safety.

“Do not be out there from 4pm. This is like Ophelia, it is a different type of safety concern but it is a safety concern,” he said yesterday.

“If people need to travel they need to consider how they will be home safely by 4pm,” he added.

He said employers will need to consider whether it will be safe to ask employees to come to work over the coming days.

“We’re hoping the damage won’t be like what it was with Ophelia but we are in uncertain territory here,” he said.

He said that if people are out and about in the weather they might get disorientated and lost. He noted several people died outdoors in 2010.

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