REGIONAL Development Minister Danny Kennedy has warned motorists to exercise extreme care on the roads after the Met Office issued an Amber warning for snow.
Parts of Counties Armagh and Down are due to be affected later this evening (Thursday), with the warning of worse to come over the next few days.
Said Minister Kennedy: “The Met Office forecast is advising the public to expect a period of severe wintry weather, with the potential for heavy rain, heavy snow and strong winds.
“We have 300 staff and around 130 gritters on standby to salt main roads to help drivers to cope with wintry conditions. However, motorists and public transport users should keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared for disruption to their daily commute, allowing plenty of time when planning a journey.
“During such Met Office warnings, it is advised to only travel if your journey is absolutely necessary.
“During periods of snow, you may have to drive at a fraction of the speed you would normally drive at to keep safe. This means it may take considerably longer to reach your destination during wintry weather.”
Roads Service will try to ensure that motorists are kept fully up to date with road conditions.
Information on gritting is relayed electronically to the media to ensure the latest news on road conditions is available to motorists. This information is also relayed to the Roads Service public facing website – www.trafficwatchni.com – to ensure the public are kept up to date with winter service operations.
The Minister warned: “Even with the most careful and thorough planning, ice or snow-free roads can never be guaranteed. Motorists need to take extra care during wintry conditions.
“The best advice is in the Highway Code – drive with care even if roads have been salted, be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances and take care when overtaking gritters.”
Will Lang, Chief Forecaster at the Met Office, said: “We can expect some atrocious weather across Northern Ireland tomorrow (Friday) and on Saturday. An area of rain will move in from the south tonight and turn increasingly to snow as it hits the cold air we have across the area.
“Towards some south-east coastal areas, heavy rain and sleet may bring a risk of localised flooding, elsewhere heavy and persistent snowfall – combined with strong to gale force winds – will be a major hazard for most. Many places can expect 10 cm of snow and 20 to 30 cm of snow over the hills of Antrim and Down.
“The public should be prepared for possible travel disruption and keep up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and warnings at www.metoffice.gov.uk during this wintry spell.”