County Kildare residents say they were taken by surprise when snow arrived

Weather

Paul O'Meara

Reporter:

Paul O'Meara

Email:

paul@leinsterleader.ie

County Kildare residents say they were taken by surprise when snow arrived

A snow scene from Naas on Sunday afternoon

Residents across County Kildare bore the brunt of the unexpected weather conditions after up to three inches of snow fell in as many hours on Sunday.

Both Met Eireann and Kildare County Council have since defended their roles in forewarning and responding to the crisis as traffic ground to a virtual halt in many places.

A spokesman at Naas garda station told the Leader there were numerous road accidents resulting from the slippery conditions, though there were no serious injuries.

Among those worst hit were people driving on the motorway, especially headed towards Dublin; as well as  people living in Naas, Sallins and Kilcullen and GAA fans returning from a crucial football league game against Meath in Navan - as a wet afternoon gave way to Arctic conditions.

They included Sandra O’Dwyer, wife of former Kildare footballer and current selector Karl O'Dwyer.

Accompanied by eleven year old son Dylan, she was making her way back home to Castledermot from a christening ceremony near Belfast when the weather turned.

“I’d been keeping an eye on the weather forecasts and these indicated snow on high ground but I could see it getting bad around Drogheda. It was really bad by the time I got to Kildare and I went into Kill village”, Ms O’Dwyer told the Leader.

It had become a terrifying experience.

“I was losing control of the car in Kill, when I tried to go left it would go right; people were crossing the street in I was petrified I’d run into some of them. At the same time I was trying not to stress my son.”

“Eventually I lost control of the car. My husband was on the (Kildare) team bus and he came and collected me. I drove his car because it’s easier on show and he drove behind me till we got home. If I thought the weather would be like this I wouldn’t have left home at all.”

She got home shortly before 9pm, a journey that would take two and half hours took five. 

Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon said questions need to be answered as to how Sunday’s severe weather event in Kildare wasn't predicted.

He had a “scary two and half hour trip home, including on the M7 with three young children, a trip that should take 20 minutes. I ran very low on diesel and saw two cars stuck.”.

He said that while he accepts weather forecasting cannot always be accurate Met Eireann should explain if it was taken unawares by the poor weather conditions.

“Sunday is a day that many people go out and many were not expecting the amount of snow that fell. I was on my way back from a child’s birthday party in Naas .”

He acknowledged there was a weather warning in place for County Kildare - and other areas - but this was yellow and “should have been on the red side of orange.”

He added: “The conditions were very dangerous and were much worse for people travelling towards Dublin in the late afternoon. You could see that the traffic was moving frighteningly slow. It may be that we have become too used to weather warnings and perhaps don’t take a yellow warning seriously enough.”

It's estimated that at least two inches of snow fell in the greater Naas area between 2.30pm and 5pm. The main roads through Naas were almost impassable and the ring roads were extremely. At the height of the snowfall, around 4.30pm vehicles were finding it difficult to negotiate the Kilcullen road in Naas and slid onto the incorrect side.

Kilcullen hill was impassable for a time.

Met Eireann said that it is not possible to indicate precisely how much snow fell in Co. Kildare.

The nearest measuring point to Co. Kildare is as Casement Aerodrome, just across the County Dublin border.

A Met Eireann representative said recording equipment there indicated rain, probably because snowfall was light and quickly melted.

“There was no depth of snow available because it was a light dusting,” the representative said.

Met Eireann does not have snow guagers situated alongside busy roads and so depends on weather stations, which are spread out across the country.

The Met representative also pointed out that some sleet and snow was predicted at 10am on Sunday and most would fall at levels above 300 metres.

Two hours later the forecast was updated to say much of the snow would be at levels above 200 metres, with temperatures predicted to fall below freezing later.

“It is not an exact science; you can only do the best you can with the information available and forecasters do their very best. The forecast said much of the now would be at higher levels - not all of it. You cannot pick out a detail from a particular forecast and go with that only,” the representative said.