Farmers have been warned to ensure the safety of their animals as Northern Ireland braces for what could be a week of snowy weather.
The Met Office said on Monday night that Northern Ireland looks set to share in the sustained snowy snap which is expected to tighten its grip upon the UK in the coming days.
NI Water – which in 2010 was the subject of controversy after a major freeze led to a widespread loss of water supplies – said its staff have been put on “high alert”, whilst the Executive Office issued a statement which advised members of the public to check in with elderly relatives.
The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) cautioned farmers to consider moving fodder close to animals “in case access routes become blocked with snow”.
It said: “Livestock on hills and upland areas are at most risk during heavy snowfalls and should be moved to lower ground or sheltered locations.”
It also suggested farmers should ensure they have “at least 24 hours’ water stored and check that all tanks, pipes and pumps are in good working order”.
The PSNI advised motorists “to exercise caution and reduce speed when facing difficult driving conditions on roads in the coming days”.
Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Board said all five of the Province’s regional health trusts have “well-developed plans for ensuring health services are maintained during all kinds of weather conditions, including snow and ice as forecast for later this week”.
The agriculture department and many media outlets have described the incoming weather system as “the Beast from the East”, because it originates from the direction of Scandinavia.
Whilst Met Office forecaster Matt Roe told the News Letter night-time temperatures for the Province look set to dip well below freezing in the days ahead, it is getting off “comparatively lightly” compared to the east of Great Britain.
Mr Roe told the News Letter that light snow showers in parts of south-east NI overnight on Monday look set to continue across the east of the Province on Tuesday afternoon.
However this is likely to amount to little more than a “light dusting” for Antrim and Down before temperatures dip to perhaps –3C at night.
Then Wednesday looks set to see a strengthening wind from the south-east “making it feel bitterly cold” he said, and gusting at speeds of up to 40mph on the east and north coasts.
Alongside it will be “scattered snow showers”, resulting in perhaps 2cm (just under an inch) on low ground and more on high areas, with temperatures plunging to an estimated –4C at night time.
Thursday will see “very little change” on Wednesday, with a further risk of snow, particularly in the south.
And this frosty weather looks set to stay for the weekend and beyond, with Mr Roe saying it “looks like it’s going to remain cold well into next week”. He added while “it won’t be snowing everywhere all the time, certainly it’s not going to be far away”.
However, at time of writing Northern Ireland had only yellow weather warnings in place for the days ahead.
In Scotland and parts of England, more serious amber warnings are in store.
Mr Roe said at a UK-wide level this is “probably the most widespread cold snap we’ve seen for several years”, although for Northern Ireland specifically it does not look to be “too extreme”.