Christmas Travel Chaos

Donegal may have to wait until after the weekend before it sees the benefit of the long-awaited thaw.

Donegal may have to wait until after the weekend before it sees the benefit of the long-awaited thaw.

Families across the county are waiting with baited breath as loved ones struggle through the Europe-wide travel chaos to make it home for Christmas. The travel plans of people hoping to spend Christmas away from home have also been thrown into doubt.

Dublin Airport reopened yesterday after closure on Tuesday and it was expected that the backlog of flights should be cleared by late this morning. Donegal Airport was yesterday expecting all scheduled arrivals and departures to be affected by only short delays.

City of Derry Airport was open yesterday as well although the morning and evening flights from Dublin had been cancelled and the airport said disruption was possible over the next few days due to weather problems at UK airports.

On the roads the entire stretch of the N56 in Donegal, from the Five Points in Killybegs to Letterkenny, was to be salted as of last night, a senior roads official said yesterday

The army has been deployed to towns around the county to help council workers clear streets and ensure access to hospitals, doctor's surgeries and pharmacies, as well as shopping areas. The army has also been transporting medical staff to work and helping garda check on people in isolated areas.

Bunbeg chemist James Cassidy said the treacherous state of west Donegal roads during the freeze is putting the lives of people seeking medical treatment at risk.

Meanwhile traders throughout the county are hoping to salvage what has been a terrible run-in to Christmas but without the thaw in the weather that had been hoped. Some businesses in smaller towns have benefited from an increase in trade due to shoppers not travelling to larger shopping centres. Towns across the county were yesterday experiencing traffic chaos as shoppers ventured out.

The county's export businesses have also struggled to get their products out of the county due to the state of roads around Donegal and beyond. There had been fuel rationing in some parts of west Donegal earlier in the week as deliveries failed to make it through although normal service had resumed by yesterday.

But Pat McCafferty of McCafferty's Maxol station in Gortahork said there had been inaccurate reports of petrol rationing in Gortahork which had affected business as motorists were buying fuel in Falcarragh before making the journey to Gortahork. "There was rationing in Gweedore but not Gortahork. We have had deliveries of fuel every day and we lost a lot of customers because of the reports," he said.

The long-awaited thaw is coming towards the end of the weekend but it could be Monday before day and night temperatures stay above zero in Donegal, Met Eireann said. The cold temperatures and freezing fog of recent days are expected to continue up until at least Christmas day but snow showers in the county were expected to fizzle out after last night until St. Stephen's Day.

Inland parts of the county have been recording temperatures of well below minus 10 and that will continue over the next few nights, David Rodgers of Met Eireann said. There will be little change on Christmas Day and wind chill will keep temperatures low, he added. "There is a change on the way but the timing of the change is not clear at present," he said. A new warmer system is to move in from the Atlantic on St. Stephen's Day. The new system, meeting cold air, will fall as rain but could bring sleet or snow to Donegal on Sunday, and freezing rain falling on frozen surfaces could add to the ice problem. "Once it gets through St. Stephen's Day strong winds will be there along with rain and sleet and it will be a totally different situation, more like normal winter conditions," he said.