Snow chaos continues throughout Ireland

Heavy snow is a rarity in Ireland.

It doesn’t normally snow on New Year’s Eve in Dublin. That may be why the city was so poorly equipped to deal with the snow on December 31 – all the one or two inches of it.

By 3 a.m. on Thursday night, taxis were few and far between, as driving conditions became treacherous, forcing taxi drivers to go home on what should have been the most lucrative night of the year. In Dublin’s city center, women in high heels and tiny skirts wept with cold, waiting outside for hours before they could find a ride home.

Many revellers decided to walk, slipping along the sidewalks in their impractical party shoes until they reached their beds.

With weather reports forecasting more subzero temperatures tonight, it looks like the icy cold will continue to attack Ireland’s beleaguered transport system.

A spokeswoman for the Mater Hospital in Dublin said there been more injuries than other years relating to people who slip and break bones while negotiating the sidewalks. The hospital did not see an increase in car accident victims, she added. “People are basically not driving, unless they have to.”

There had been no casualties from hypothermia, the spokeswoman said.

But the transport infrastructure is suffering. Dublin Bus advertised disruptions due to “extreme weather conditions,” and national bus services, run by Bus Eireann, are also reduced.

Several fatal car crashes have occurred, and the Gardai (Irish police) have warned: “the first week in 2010 is set to be bitterly cold. Heavy snow showers are likely and very severe frosts. … These conditions will make driving very dangerous and treacherous.”

Melting snow is turning to ice on the pavements, and more cold weather is on the way. Some people are benefiting however. Children have taken over the streets building snowmen and throwing snowballs. And sports and outdoor shops like the Irish chain Great Outdoors are doing a hot business.

“We’re sold out,” said Derek Moody, one of the managers of the Great Outdoors Chatham Street branch in Dublin. “Ski suits, boots, gloves, hats, you name it.”

The bad news for kids it that they’re out of toboggans too. “We’ll try to get more in,” Moody said, “but I doubt it'll be possible. Everywhere else is sold out too.”