TAKING HER HANDY Traffic travelling through the snow close to Balla on Sunday. Pic: Keith Heneghan
The cold snap that left much of the county under snow at the weekend is set to pass as the week progresses. The county woke up to a blanket of snow and sub-zero temperatures on Sunday morning, causing hardship for people living in rural areas, as many local roads were impassible.
The coldest temperature was recorded in Claremorris on Sunday, where temperatures plunged to -2.4 degrees Celsius. At Knock Airport, the temperature did not climb above 0.1 degrees Celsius all day. Despite the freeze, the airport remained open and the runway remained fully operational – however, adverse weather conditions in the UK resulted in the cancellation of some flights.
A national yellow warning for low temperatures in the range of zero to -4 degrees Celsius, issued by Met Éireann on Monday, was to last until 10am this morning (Tuesday). The weather forecast for today is for rain to spread from the west with a clearance in the afternoon, and temperatures ranging from 5 to 8 degrees.
The outlook for the rest of the week is for showers and strong westerly winds. Temperatures are to remain cold, but they are not expected to go below freezing.
Many people heeded the advice not to take unnecessary journeys but a two-car collision along the Newport road outside Castlebar on Sunday afternoon resulted in three people being hospitalised for minor injuries.
The accident occurred at 2.50pm when two cars collided close to the Islandeady junction and a third car ended up in the ditch to avoid a collision. A female and two males who were in one of the cars suffered minor injuries while the occupants of the other cars were not seriously injured.
The road was closed for a short period of time while an investigation took place but was soon reopened.
A rise in temperature on Monday improved matters around the county as staff from Mayo County Council worked throughout the evening and early morning to ensure as many roads were treated.
The council has a stockpile of up to 4,800 tonnes of salt in stock. Over the last 36 hours, 22 vehicles were used to grit major roads. When it comes to treating roadways, the council places a priority on national primary and secondary routes, followed by strategically important regional roads.
Efforts to grit the major roads over the weekend were praised by members of Mayo County Council at yesterday’s monthly meeting. However, the footpaths in Castlebar were described as ‘treacherous’ by some councillors, who are calling for footpaths and car parks in the town to be gritted in the run up to Christmas.
“We worry about the roads and rightly so, but there doesn’t seem to be the same concern about pedestrians using the footpaths. The footpaths are treacherous and it would take very little to put salt around carparks and footpaths in major areas,” said Ballina councillor Gerry Ginty.
Independent councillor Michael Holmes said he was approached by a number of people in Castlebar before the meeting about the dangers of the footpaths. He complimented businesses which took care of the areas around their premises, but said it would not be a major job to keep them clear.
Chief Executive Peter Hynes acknowledged all the staff who were coordinating and implementing the winter-services plan, and he thanked all the gritters for working on a very dangerous night. He said that where resources allowed, footpaths would also be gritted.
“We will do our best with the resources we have to ensure the footpaths are cleared, and they will get extra attention in the build-up to the peak of the shopping period,” he said.
Ballyhaunis-based councillor John Cribbin asked the council to ensure that grit is stockpiled at certain rural locations, for communities living away from major roads. This would help ensure that those residents could have passable access roads during a freeze, he said.
Mr Hynes acknowledged that the council has learned from the severe winters of 2010 and 2011, and he said that the stockpiling of salt in ‘strategic locations’ would continue.
“We have an unofficial policy of making grit available to communities in strategic locations without giving advice on how it will be used or where it will be used, and that is for good reason. We propose to continue to pursue that policy in the event of an extended freeze over the Christmas period,” he explained.
An Garda Síochána is asking motorists to continue to be cautious while driving, particularly early in the morning, when there is a greater chance of ice.
Supt Joe McKenna has urged motorists to give themselves extra time when driving and to drive in a safe manner and not too close to vehicles in front. He also reminded drivers to drive with their lights on and ensure their cars are in the right gear when going up hills.