White out chaos to continue

White out chaos is set to continue in Derry beyond Christmas, according to the Met Office.

Record low temperatures look set to ensure that the snow-covered city remains in a deep freeze until at least St Stephen's Day.

The forecast will come as a heavy blow to Derry's retailers who are desperate to boost trade after two separate bouts of arctic conditions devastated pre-Christmas till takings.

Many familes throughout the North West are waiting anxiously as loved ones remain stranded around the world, unsure as to when or even if they'll make it back home in time for Christmas.

One Derry woman was yesterday stranded in Bangkok - en route from Sydney - waiting for a flight to London's Heathrow airport, which last night warned of days of delays as it operates at "reduced capacity".

At City of Derry airport flights were operational with some long delays, after a weekend in which most inbound and outbound flights were cancelled.

Traffic chaos prevailed throughout the weekend with hazardous conditions on the city's main arteries and many rural routes rendered impassable.

DRD Roads Service said yesterday that staff were working "around the clock" to keep the main roads open in the North West as many routes in in Derry were gridlocked.

A spokesperson said: "Roads Service salts scheduled routes at three to four times the normal rate during periods of heavy snow and our Snow Contingency Plan has been activated.

"Main routes are passable with care but Roads Service is advising motorists to listen to the forecasts and if the journey is necessary drivers should plan their journeys before they set out, checking media updates."

Derry City Council staff worked with Road Service over the weekend to clear city centre pathways. A council spokesperson confirmed that staff yesterday continued to "clear these areas of snow". She added: "The public are advised to proceed with extreme caution."

Derry businessman Brendan Duddy Jnr yesterday warned that "more must be done" to ensure traffic and pedestrians can move freely in the city in the final few shopping days before Christmas.

"Retail is the single biggest employer in Derry and the Government bodies need to ensure that people can move in the city. Friday was a non-starter for trade in the city but there hasn't been heavy snowfall like that since and yet little has been done - I saw no sign of any road clearing vehicles in the city on Saturday. They can do more, absolutely."

Ian Robinson from the Met Office said last night that there was "no sign" of a thaw on the way. He warned of further freezing temperatures close to the -18C record low for Northern Ireland recorded at Castlederg on Sunday.

"It will be cold. There'll be similar temperatures over the next two days with temperatures falling to as low as -15 and maybe even lower in some places."