Blizzard batters the west

The scene at Ireland West Airport yesterday.

The scene at Ireland West Airport yesterday.

The county was on virtual lockdown last night and this morning (Friday ) as the region was lashed by a strong blizzard which shut schools, businesses, schools and colleges and forced the population to remain indoors under strict instruction from safety agencies.

The heavy snow combined with cold winds from Storm Emma made driving in the region treacherous with temperatures plummeting to -5 degrees last evening.

This had led to accumulations of heavy snow and packed ice which have brought the country to a standstill. The Status Red warning is in force until later this afternoon (Friday ) when temperatures are expected to rise and snowfalls will decrease.

However, leading road safety advocates have warned that the melting snow and ice in the coming days will affect driving conditions, and motorists have been told to exercise extreme caution and only to travel if necessary.

The storms have wreaked havoc with social and sporting events planned for last night and the weekend, and people are asked to check ahead to ensure if an event is still scheduled.

GMIT campuses including the Castlebar and Letterfrack campuses were shut yesterday and again today, and NUI Galway also stated that it would be closing and will re-open on Monday.

Road conditions were described as treacherous on the N17, the Ballina to Foxford Road, and on the N84 heading south to Galway, while roads in the north of the county were also said to be extremely slippery and hazardous.

Despite this, Ireland West Airport was open and fully operational yesterday morning. Ryanair expected to operate all flights yesterday morning but the airport warned that there may be some delays.

Passengers were advised to take extra care when travelling to the airport and to check the latest flight information online.

Following the upgrade of the weather warning by Met Eireann to Status Red for the entire country late on Wednesday, Mayo University Hospital (MUH ) cancelled routine electives and outpatient appointments yesterday and today.

A spokesperson told the Advertiser that MUH will continue to do everything possible to maintain all essential services to patients receiving planned cancer and renal services, but would ask patients to contact the hospital directly at 094 90 21733 and ask for duty manager Pager 607 if they have any concerns.

All appointments cancelled during the period will be rescheduled and patients will be advised of their new appointment by the hospital.

The hospital’s Emergency Department remains open 24/7 but continue to be busy and they expect difficulties around discharge planning as a consequence of the adverse conditions. They asked that patients who were being discharged today are collected from the hospital as early as possible to avoid travelling during the worsening conditions forecast for this afternoon.

“We would encourage people to consider all options available to them for their healthcare needs and to protect the ED for those most seriously ill as delays can be expected.

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