More snow on the way but hopes are high for Limerick's Christmas racing festival

MET Eireann are forecasting further snowfalls for Limerick this week, but despite the cold weather being expected to last until Christmas Eve, a thaw is expected on Christmas Day.

MET Eireann are forecasting further snowfalls for Limerick this week, but despite the cold weather being expected to last until Christmas Eve, a thaw is expected on Christmas Day.

Arctic conditions returned to most parts of Limerick at the weekend, with County Limerick being particularly badly hit by snowfalls.

The forecast for the Christmas p eriod was broadly welcomed in Limerick city, with the larger department stores set to open on St. Stephen's Day and the bumper four day Christmas Racing Festival set to take place in Limerick Racecourse on Sunday. The latter particularly welcomed this news, with Limerick Racecourse general manager Russell Ferris telling the Limerick Leader that he was confident the cold snap would lift in time to allow the four-day festival to go ahead.

"The forecast is good, the temperature is due to rise to five or six degrees on Christmas Day, so it should be fine," said Mr Ferris of the meet, one of the most popular social and sporting fixtures on the local calendar.

The Limerick Racecourse boss explained that special frost covers have been brought in from the UK to protect the "take-off and landing" sides of the jumps on the Patrickswell course.

Several of the city's biggest department stores are to open their doors on St. Stephen's Day, some for the first time ever, and will welcome news that a thaw is on the way. The freezing weather has affected shopping in the city, and was a contributing factor in the decision to open. Brown Thomas will open for its first time ever on the day after Christmas, while Penneys and Debenhams will follow suit.

Snow falls, severe frost and freezing fog over the weekend left roads dangerous due to icy patches, but main roads in and around the city are passable this Monday morning.

Areas around County Limerick suffered heavy snowfalls at the weekend, with garda and local authorities reporting most roads to be "very bad all over" and urging motorists to travel with extreme care on secondary and other rural roads.

The main N21 route between Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale was particularly bad over the weekend, as was the approach road to Bruff.

Limerick County Council issued a road safety alert at the weekend, advising motorists to be careful and not to speed, and allow enough distance between themselves and the car in front.

In the city, garda also urged caution in city housing estates, which were affected by the snow and ice.

Shannon Airport remains open, but some delays or cancellations are continuing, particularly flights to the UK which has been severely affected by the extreme the London area, which is experiencing problems. Passengers are advised to check with their airline before travelling to Shannon