Beast from the East: Up to 40cms of snow expected as red weather warning extended for Munster and Leinster

A red weather warning remains in place until 6pm tomorrow, Friday for Munster and Leinster. People are being advised to stay indoors.

The country is being hit by the worst snow in 35 years, with Evelyn Cusack, senior forecaster with Met Eireann, warning 40cm of snow could fall in parts of the east and south.

Earlier, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged: "We are asking everyone to remain indoors until the severe weather has passed."

    Storm Emma - what we know so far:

  • Current weather warnings: Red Snow-Ice alert for Munster and Leinster valid until 6pm tomorrow;
  • 40cm of snow could fall in parts of the east and south;
  • All schools, colleges and third level institutions are closed today and tomorrow - as are the courts;
  • The Defence Forces have withdrawn all non-essential personal and will focus on only "life or death" situations this evening
  • HSE: Elective, non-urgent or outpatient appointments have been cancelled;
  • Bus Eireann: Bus Eireann services are not running tomorrow in both Leinster and Munster - Connacht, West and Northwest may have limited services, subject to road conditions.;
  • Dublin Bus: There are no services today and no services operating tomorrow, Friday March 2;
  • Airports:Cork, Dublin and Shannon Airports have all suspended operations. All three are expecting to reopen on Saturday morning.
  • Irish Rail: Irish Rail services have now terminated are not expected to resume until Saturday morning at the earliest.
  • Childline: The ISPCC’s Childline service closed at 4pm today and will remain closed until "safe to re-open".

Update 8pm: Met Eireann have extended the status red weather warning for Leinster and Munster until 6pm tomorrow evening.

Heavy snow will bring significant accumulations, with blizzard-like conditions expected.

A red alert will be in effect for Connacht, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal until 6am.

Several thousand households in Dublin and Kildare were without power on Thursday evening.

Met Eireann is also concerned that flooding could become a problem in the greater Dublin area when the snow thaws.

The severe winter conditions resulted from the combination of the so-called Beast From The East polar air system and Storm Emma moving in from the south.

People are being reassured that emergency services should still be able to reach them in the snow.

The main routes have been gritted to allow for ease of access, however, road crews will not be out again until the blizzard has passed.

Update 6pm: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged people to remain indoors as blizzard conditions are forecast to sweep the country.

The first band of heavy snow associated with Storm Emma has arrived in the South East of the country.

Conditions are expected to deteriorate across the country throughout the evening, although currently calm in Cork city and surrounding areas.

The entire country has been put under the highest weather warning, a red alert, as the worst snow in 35 years spreads north across the island.

The red weather alert issued by Met Eireann is in place in Munster and Leinster, covering the south and east of the country, until midday on Friday.

Connacht and the Border counties will be affected until 6am.

Temperatures are expected to be below -4 and there will be strong gale force north east winds with the snowfalls.

The National Emergency Co-ordination Group met before the worst of the weather hit and chairman Sean Hogan said the priority was public safety.

"Bear in mind what we are facing, this is nature coming in," he said.

"We haven't seen these conditions for a long time, even if we had we don't know how things will get repeated. This is a unique set of circumstances.”

Evelyn Cusack, senior forecaster with Met Eireann, said a "big improvement" is expected over the weekend, but warned: "There is a high degree of uncertainty of how this storm system is going to behave."

The severe winter conditions resulted from the combination of the Beast From The East polar air system and Storm Emma moving in from the south.

It is expected to hit Ireland harder than anywhere else, and it is predicted to be the worst snow storms in the Republic since 1982.

In Northern Ireland, more than 300 schools were closed, some health facilities shut to non-urgent admissions and there was disruption and delay on the roads.

Continue reading for more specific details about the extreme weather and its effects across the country.

Update 3.30pm: Don’t do it’: Warning issued against travelling as public transport grinds to a halt

Transport Minister Shane Ross offered unambiguous advice on travelling through the storm: "Don't do it."

Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann, Irish Rail and Luas tram services are cancelled until Saturday, and all schools and colleges are closed.

Ireland's National Emergency Co-ordination Group met in advance of the worst of the weather hitting and chairman Sean Hogan said the priority was public safety.

"Bear in mind what we are facing, this is nature coming in," he said.

"We haven't seen these conditions for a long time, even if we had we don't know how things will get repeated. This is a unique set of circumstances.”

All flights from Dublin Airport are set to stop during the worst of the storm. Aer Lingus and Ryanair will not have any flights from Dublin until Saturday morning.

Ryanair said it has cancelled all flights to and from the following airports: East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cork and Kerry.

Shannon Airport have announced that they will close from 6pm this evening, while Cork airport has suspended all services already.

All three of the countries main airports are expected to reopen on Saturday morning.

The Defence Forces have deployed 250 Army personnel to provide support across the country over the last few days.

They've now withdrawn non-essential services such as clearing snow and ice - and will only deal with "life or death" situations this evening during the worst of Storm Emma.

Update 1.30pm: The Taoiseach has warned that the "risk to life and limb" presented by severe weather should not be underestimated and has told everyone to remain indoors after 4pm today, writes Elaine Loughlin.

High winds and blizzard conditions are expected to hit the entire country from this afternoon with zero visibility later tonight and there is a flood warning in coastal areas due to high tides.

Heavier snow is expected in from the south east with thunderstorms and hail over Munster and south Leinster.

The public have been advised not to drive or go outside until tomorrow afternoon as a red weather alert has been extended across the entire country until tomorrow afternoon.

Speaking after a meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group, Leo Varadkar said: "We are facing severe blizzard-like conditions which will spread across the country from 4pm today, winds of up to 100km per hour will persist with heavy snow.

"It is not safe to be outside in such conditions, no one should be on the roads and we are asking everyone to be home and safe by 4pm and to bein doors until the severe weather has passed tomorrow.

"The risk of life and limb presented by severe weather conditions should not be underestimated by anyone," he said.

Mr Varadar added that "Ireland has a great community spirit, it's part of what defines us as a people" and he asked members of the public to check on old, sick and vulnerable neighbours today if it is safe to do so.

There will be no trains today or tomorrow, and Irish Rail hope to resume services on Saturday.

Likewise all bus services and Luas services will be halted this afternoon. There have been widespread cancellations and disruption to ferries and flights.

All schools and third level institutes will remain closed tomorrow.

Met Éireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack said today will be the coldest day and air temperatures will stay below -1 or -2 degrees all day, while it is -4 degrees in Cork.

While she said weather should begin to improve tomorrow afternoon, there is still a level of uncertainty around how the storm will play out across the country and further snow showers are expected across the weekend especially over southern and eastern areas.

High spring tides mean there is a danger of coastal flooding and this has already impacted on rail services in Dublin.

Ms Cusack said: "There will be more widespread galeforce winds over land this evening and tonight."

Mr Varadkar also paid tribute to those working in front line and emergency services and said: "I have directed that the full resources of the State do everything necessary to ensure the safety and welfare of our citizens which is our absolute priority today.

This was echoed by Fianna Fáil Leader, Micheál Martin who said: “Over the past 48 hours, we have seen the very best of our State’s public service. They have gone about their jobs diligently and with courage.

"Whether it’s local authority workers, An Garda Siochána, the National Ambulance Service, the wider Health Service, the Civil Defence, the Defence Forces, workers in our transport companies, or those keeping the lights on or keeping us connected, they are ensuring that our country keeps moving and that our fellow citizens are kept safe," said Mr Martin.

Earlier: Peter McVerry Trust opens additional emergency beds

Peter McVerry Trust has extended the capacity of its Extreme Cold Weather Emergency Accommodation facilities to 173 beds.

It represents the largest single mobilisation of emergency beds in the 35 year history of Peter McVerry Trust.

Last night, 106 people stayed at the emergency accommodation facility in Dublin’s South Inner City. The capacity of this emergency facility has today been extended to 120.

Additional capacity has been continually added to this facility, since 70 extreme weather beds were initially put in place on Monday night.

The demand for this emergency facility has also increased since it came into operation, with 45 people staying in the facility on Monday and 81 people on Tuesday.

Earlier: Dublin Bus services will not operate tomorrow

Dublin Bus services will not operate tomorrow, it has been announced.

In a statement released this afternoon Dublin Bus said, "Dublin Bus services are not operating today, Thursday 1 March. Due to the Red Weather Warning in place until 15.00 tomorrow for blizzard conditions and further snow accumulations, combined with anticipated road conditions, Dublin Bus will not be in a position to operate any services tomorrow, Friday 2 March.

"We apologise for the inconvenience caused, however this decision has been made in the interest of the safety of our customers and employees.

"We will monitor the situation closely tomorrow and take advice from Met Éireann and the National Emergency Co-ordination Committee regarding our services on Saturday, 3 March."

Earlier: Further flight delays and cancellations expected

Aer Lingus and Ryanair are trying to get as many flights in the air as possible at Dublin airport before this afternoon however there have been several cancellations.

Ryanair have said that they expect further flight delays and cancellations at airports today and tomorrow.

In Dublin Airport, a number of flights have been cancelled for Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd March 2018 and all affected customers have been notified of their options by email/SMS text message.

All flights to/from Cork & Kerry Airports have been cancelled for the remainder of the day, Thurs 1st March 2018. All affected customers have been notified of their options by email/SMS text message.

Shannon airport says there are disruptions, while Cork airport remains closed.

Irish Rail will start scaling back services in the next hour, as the country braces for Storm Emma.

Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus services have already been cancelled, while the Luas will stop at midday.

Meanwhile, social welfare recipients are being reassured their money will be waiting for them after the snow storm.

Uncollected payments are often returned to the Department but An Post's Anna McHugh says this time they will make an exception.

"If you are due to collect a social welfare payment of any kind at the post office and you don't go out to get it today and we would say that if it is not absolutely entirely necessary please do not venture out," said Ms McHugh.

"It will remain safe and secure and ready, waiting for you to collect when this period of bad weather passes."

Earlier: Emergency services appeal to people to heed warnings during national Status Red warning

Emergency services are appealing to people to heed the warnings to stay indoors.

Darren O'Connor from Dublin Fire Brigade says thrill-seekers could put people's lives at risk.

"We don't want to put our crews in danger unnecessarily. We are there to respond to emergencies if required but we would definitely appeal to people to exercise caution."

The public is being praised for heeding the safety warnings so far.

Seán Hogan is the Chair of the National Emergency Coordination Group which is formulating the country's response to the snow storm.

"That was the experience with Storm Ophelia too, people listened, took the message on board and we think this is the safest thing to do - it is the only thing to do, in fact," said Mr Hogan.

"People in Ireland are sound and sensible and doing the right thing."

The National Emergency Coordination Group are expected to meet shortly and provide an updated advisory.

Earlier: Homeless charities under pressure as Status Red warning issued nationwide

Homeless charities are reporting an increase in demand for their services during the cold snap.

It has been reported that 30 people slept rough during the freezing conditions in Dublin last night.

The Peter McVerry Trust had 106 beds allocated at a sports centre in Dublin's South Inner City, an increase on 81 on the previous night.

The Housing First Street Intake Team managed to encourgae a number of people sleeping rough to come in off the streets.

However a number declined to come into emergency shelter.

The charities are urging the public to let them know if they see someone in need of help.

As conditions worsen, those at risk can move to find even greater protection from the elements.

CEO of the Peter Mc Verry Trust, Pat Doyle, says that can pose difficulties for outreach workers: "That's a challenge - that people move.

"So we may be working with somebody, we may be visiting, we may be connecting with somebody in the same location every night and then they move.

"And given this weather and given the wind and the snow, people will move now. They will move further into hedgerows, further into laneways, further into squats and that will make them more difficult to find."

Meanwhile, The Social Protection Minister is reassuring people their double fuel allowance payment is on the way.

There has been confusion as to when the €45 will be paid.

Regina Doherty explains the reason for the mix up.

"Fuel payments is a top-up to a payment that people are on so different people are on different payments," explained Ms Doherty.

"Some people may be on disability payment, an illness payment, a job seekers payment and they all get the payment on different days but starting from next week anyone that's entitled to fuel allowance who normally gets it will get a double payment and a lot of people will get it next week but some people will get it the week after.

"But it is coming."

Update 8am: All outpatient appointments and planned admissions at the three children's hospitals today have been cancelled.

Anyone who attends the emergency departments at Temple Street, Crumlin or Tallaght hospitals will be seen.

Meanwhile, the ISPCC's Childline service will be closed until 8am this morning because of fears over the safety of its volunteers getting to their offices.

It is only the second time the service that helps vulnerable children has been forced to close in 30 years.

Caroline O'Sullivan, Director of Services at the ISPCC, says the decision wasn't taken lightly.

"For any child that is in an emergency situation or is at risk, we are saying to them to contact the emergency number 112 or 999," said Ms O'Sullivan.

"If children need someone to talk to we would say to them to reach out to an older brother or sister or a parent or an aunt or uncle."

Meanwhile, NUI Galway have confirmed that they will be closed today and tomorrow due to the elevation to the Red Status weather warning.

This applies to all NUI Galway campuses in Galway, Shannon and Sligo, and Acadamh centres in Carna, An Cheathrú Rua and Gaoth Dobhair.

The university will continue to monitor the weather conditions and publish updates to the University Alerts webpage.

Earlier: Hundreds without power as Status Red warning issued nationwide

Hundreds of electricity customers in north Dublin are dealing with a power outage this morning.

In Cork, over 300 customers are without power and over 100 people are affected in parts of Kerry.

ESB Networks says it is working to restore power to homes and businesses.

Earlier: Status Red warning issued nationwide

A nationwide status red weather warning has been issued for the whole country.

All schools will be closed and many transport services will be suspended.

Late last night, Met Eireann upgraded their warnings to status red for the entire country.

"In a blizzard scenario people might not be able to see the hand in front of their face so it could be total whiteout in certain conditions," Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

"It is not the occasion to engage in any daredevil activities."

Mr Varadkar says we will not have seen conditions like this since 1982.

Heavy snow showers will bring significant accumulations to all parts of the country - with blizzard conditions as Storm Emma makes landfall.

The Government said between 22cm and 28cm of snow will fall by tomorrow afternoon.

People in Cork City, which will be among the first areas hit by the storm, face a further hazard as they brace for high tides and flooding.

Met Eireann's Joanna Donnelly outlines the prospects: "Through the early part of Thursday and then of course this next weather system coming from the south will bring widespread snow and drifting blizzard conditions right up over the country during Thursday afternoon, evening and Thursday night."

The government's advice is to stay inside today.

Sean Hogan from the National Emergency Co-ordination group says doing otherwise would be madness.

"It would be suicidal to go out driving in these types of conditions," Mr Hogan said.

The advice is to keep checking the weather forecast and not to take unnecessary risks.

Public transport is expected to come to a standstill today following the upgrade to a status red alert.

Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus have cancelled all services.

The Luas is running limited trams this morning and will stop completely at midday.

Irish Rail is operating for now but it warns there are alterations, some cancellations and people can expect delays.

Anyone heading to the airport is advised to contact their airline before leaving the house.

In Cork City, authorities urged those living and working in flood-risk areas to take steps to protect their property before 4pm, when the “stay indoors” advisory kicks in.

Aside from the blizzard conditions, the low pressure, the strong southerly to south-easterly winds, and storm surge associated with Storm Emma will coincide with a period of high astronomical spring tides from 5.15pm, and at each high tide until 7.45am on Monday.

The combination of factors will result in tide levels higher than what are natural, putting low-lying areas of the city centre at risk of flooding before and after all the high tides.

The highest risk of flooding is around Morrison’s Island, Union Quay, South Terrace, Lavitt’s Quay, Kyrl’s St, Kyrl’s Quay, Crosses Green, Sharman Crawford St, and Wandesford Quay.

There is a lower level of flood risk along South Mall, Lapps Quay, MacSwiney Quay, Albert Quay, Proby’s Quay, French’s Quay, Lancaster Quay, Sullivan’s Quay and Lower Glanmire Rd.

A spokesman for Cork City Council said it does not propose to issue sandbags but will have a limited supply of gel-bags available for collection at the council’s Anglesea Terrace depot from 9.30am to 1pm today.

A number of road closures and traffic restrictions will be implemented before the flood events.

The city council’s severe weather response team will continue to meet today to assess the threats posed by the severe snow and flood risk.

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