KILFINANE experienced the heaviest snowfall in Munster since December 2010 according to weather experts with up to six inches lodging on the village’s main street on Tuesday morning - resulting in scenes not seen by locals since the winter of 1982.
Deadly road conditions saw motorists abandoning their vehicles on approach roads into the village and one SuperValu lorry had to be towed up the main street by a tractor, driven by the local coalman Timmy Hanley.
“The lorry got into difficulty at Murrins Cross around a quarter of a mile outside the village on the Kilmallock road and an awful lot of cars got stuck between Pat Creed’s house and that cross,” explained local man Hugh Murphy.
“Timmy also towed a few cars near the old leather factory first and then more near Forest View. He had a busy morning.”
Hugh himself became aware of the extreme conditions shortly after 8am when he heard it mentioned both on the local and national radio stations. When he peered out the front window of his house at New Terrace, Kilfinane, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“It was very, very thick at that stage. Somebody mentioned that it was 1982 when they last saw that kind of heavy snowfall in Kilfinane. I headed up town. A few lads were around because they couldn’t get to work.
“The schools were closed although I believe there was a small number of students in the secondary school - Scoil Pol,”explained Hugh who is the Leader’s notes correspondent for Kilfinane.
“People were really struggled to drive, particularly between Harry Murphy’s garage and the Ballyhoura Office. They were skidding everywhere.”
But what lead to the extreme conditions?
Ardpatrick and Ballylanders experienced similar snowy scenes while nearby Kilmallock, Bruff and most of the county and city, were, bar a light dusting here and there, snow-free zones.
Mark Dunphy who founded the website Irish Weather Online says that are a number of different elements combined, resulted in the heavy snowfall in the Ballyhoura area.
“Firstly, the rain bearing front was pushing up against cold air that was already here. But what added to it was the height above sea level,” Mark explained.
Having referred to a programme which gives the altitude of any given location, Mark pointed out that Kilfinane and Ardpatrick are “quite high up” at 500 feet above sea level, while Ballylanders is 480 feet above sea level and Kilmallock is 300 feet above sea level.
“It has to do with upper air temperature - the temperature up in the atmosphere. At the time, the coldest temperatures in the atmosphere over Ireland were around that part of the country. Usually it has to be minus five degrees Celsius or lower for snow to form and there was a pocket of minus five over that part of the country. While there was sleet and rain everywhere else - it was falling as snow there. Basically, the air was slightly colder around that part of the country than it was anywhere else and the rain coming up against it turned to snow.”
Mark noted that it was interesting that Met Eireann’s warning did not relate to that part of the country.
“Some of the biggest snow falls in Irish history have come about as a result of Atlantic systems pushing up against cold air and they are notoriously difficult to predict because it is down to local geographical conditions.”