Blizzard conditions ‘worst we’ve ever seen’

Dominic Hasson from the Benedy, Dungiven, trudged through the snow at the weekend to reach stock, and carry supplies. (2603SJ6)
Dominic Hasson from the Benedy, Dungiven, trudged through the snow at the weekend to reach stock, and carry supplies. (2603SJ6)

Families throughout the Roe Valley affected by the Arctic weather at the weekend have been describing the blizzard conditions as a “nightmare”.

Dozens of families were left without power following the severe weather, which swept across northern and eastern counties on Thursday night. A number of homes were also without water.

Worst hit were those living in rural areas of the borough, in particular farmers with stock on higher ground, some who say the ferocious conditions have claimed the lives of dozens of newborn lambs.

Farmers say they are exhausted after working all hours in a bid to reach stranded stock and keep them alive.

Sheep farmer, Perry Semple from Drumsurn said it was a “total disaster”. He said in the three days before the snow fell, 70 of his ewes had lambed but, over the weekend, he had lost at least 40 new born lambs, and three to four ewes.

“It’s nearly impossible to do anything,” Mr. Semple said, yesterday. “It’s a total disaster. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time, but sure what do you do. You just have to get on with it.”

Mr. Semple said even if sheep could see grass it would help, but right now that’s not possible.

“This won’t be the end of it, “ he said, adding: “There is always someone else worse off.”

In Dungiven, Benedy farmer Dominic Hasson managed to get his flock to safety, but it wasn’t an easy job.

“All you could see was the black heads sticking up through the snow,” he said. “I’ve never seen it as bad. It’s a nightmare.”

Mr Hasson says his family has been snowed in since Friday, and he has been forced to trudge through several feet of snow, in places where it has drifted several feet, to get supplies for his family and neighbours.

“People don’t realise how bad it is,” he said.

Mr. Hasson’s wife, Alva said the local community had rallied to help and, whilst things were bad, they were better off than a lot of other people in the North.

“We are really lucky being a part of the Benedy community,” she said. “Everyone who had access to a tractor has been helping to keep roads clear for people who were stranded by the snow.

Community spirit is fantastic up here.

Neighbours couldn’t do enough for us.”

NIE said at its peak more than 140,000 customers were without power.

Dozens of housesholds in the Roe Valley, including those in the Limavady, Magilligan and Gortnaghey areas were affected.