Arctic Blast on the way

Derry is braced for a second big freeze with forecasters predicting an "arctic blast" for later this week.

The Met Office expects up to eight inches of snowfall in the area on Thursday and Friday, accompanied by strong northerly winds and sub zero temperatures.

John Hammond, of the Met Office, told the 'Journal' that all eyes were on Thursday or the arrival of the "arctic blast".

"Fairly heavy and frequent snow showers are predicted for Derry. We're expecting between two and eight inches of snow to fall by Friday lunchtime," he said. Mr Hammond added that he didn't believe the snow "will shift in a hurry".

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for the region.

A spokesperson for the Roads Service said that local salt barns are being "adequately" stocked for another big freeze.

She said: "It is extremely difficult to predict what nature will throw at us and we must always be ready for exceptional weather conditions like last year when we experienced the worst winter in over 40 years, with operations continuing around the clock on many occasions."

A spokesperson for Derry City Council said the local authority is monitoring the weather situation. She said that "contingency plans are in place" to work to deliver services where possible in accordance with health and safety requirements. "The recent severe weather conditions impacted on a number of services including inbound and outbound flights at the City of Derry Airport, refuse collections, civic amenity sites, cemeteries, play parks and public parks and public events. The Council is working to ensure as many services as possible will be available and will provide regular updates later in the week at www.derrycity.gov.uk/updates," she added.

Fears of further freezing temperatures have sparked calls for a regulation of oil prices in the city after it was revealed prices increased almost 10% in the last fortnight. Welfare rights advisor Kathleen Bradley said people are now facing a "real struggle" to heat their homes. "Everyone now has to think twice about putting their heating on."

Maureen Collins, an outreach worker at Dove House, said fuel poverty was a crisis faced by many pensioners aided by Operation Snowball - a community response group to aid vulnerable people in freezing conditions in the Bogside and Brandywell area. She added that volunteers from Operation Snowball will be out in force in the coming days.