ULSTER could be in for a couple of days of snow in the coming week according to a weather forecasting agency.
Temperatures are expected to drop early next week and lead to “snow showers”.
The news coincided with a visit to a rock salt mine by regional development minister Danny Kennedy, the man responsible for the Roads Service.
According to the department, he was there on an inspection of operations at the mine at Kilroot near Carrickfergus, where salt is excavated from about 1,200ft underground.
The Department for Regional Development said it costs about £80,000 a night to keep roads gritted, and that a reserve of about £5 million has been set aside for the task.
In a statement, the minister said: “The Met Office have already warned of more dipping temperatures, and the possibility of further ice and snow.
“During winter weather, drivers should take particular care when driving at night or at dawn or dusk as surface moisture and dew freeze and may become black ice, which is very difficult to detect on the road.”
Rachel Vince, a forecaster with PA WeatherCentre in London, which uses computer models and Met Office data to predict the weather, said from tomorrow there would be a chance of snow – especially on higher ground.
Today she said it would probably be fine with maximum temperatures of about 7C throughout the Province.
Tomorrow will be cloudy. But she said from Monday cold air coming from the north would bring “heavy wintery showers,” with snow falling on ground above 100 metres (about 330ft), adding that such a rise in elevation can reduce temperatures by up to 5C.
Ms Vince said: “It’ll take a little while to stick on Monday afternoon. By evening, expect to see it sticking on fields and grass.
“Hopefully on the roads network it will be taking longer to stick.”
From Monday night though to Tuesday morning, “snow showers are expected to fall pretty much everywhere”.
It will be much the same during the day but by Wednesday it will become less intense, although there may still be some snow showers, especially in the north of the Province.
All told, she said perhaps five to 10 centimetres (about two to four inches) could fall over the hills and mountains.
Met Eireann, the Republic’s national weather centre, painted a similar picture, but less severe.
Forecaster Eoin Sherlock said Monday and Tuesday would likely see some “winter precipitation”, but this was more likely to be snow mixed with rain, and that the only place it may stick would be higher ground, melting to liquid lower down.
However, he warned of risks of black ice at the start of the week, as temperatures are expected to drop below zero overnight.
The Met Office in mainland Britain was contacted, but no one was available to take the call.