It's raining in Ireland, praise be!

Ireland is melting. Two weeks after snow and ice first started covering big chunks of the country it's losing ground. Grass is reappearing and those unshoveled sidewalks are gradually becoming less slippery.

Gradually.

Although today felt warm, the temperature probably topped out around 42F (5.5C) this afternoon. Best of all, it rained for a little while. Not long enough to totally eliminate the 3" of solid ice that has covered many of the roads in the Dublin area, but it's a start. The forecast says it will be similar tomorrow and over the weekend. With any luck the roads will all be ice-free come Monday.

This was a significant spell of cold weather, much longer-lasting than last winter's 'once in 40 years event'. And as I mentioned last winter, it rarely gets cold enough for snow to fall and stick here. I haven't met anyone who can remember it staying for nearly two weeks.

On Tuesday I was driving along the highway and caught a glimpse to my right of a wooded, snow-covered area through which I could see a frozen, snow-covered farm. For a moment I was transported back home. I thought I was driving down the NYS Thruway on a January day.

Of course the snow that fell was never properly cleared from sidewalks and side streets, which is where all that thick ice came from. There remains a real reluctance to clear slushy streets.

The public authorities did learn one lesson from last winter: throw a lot more salt and sand on the snow. It's not as good as actually moving the snow off the roads, but there was less disruption this time. Not a lot less, but less.

Despite the extra salt and sand, thousands of people couldn't get to work, costing our suffering economy hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity. Schools were closed, flights were delayed or canceled, and the hospitals saw a massive increase in the numbers of patients presenting with fractures. All due to a few inches of unplowed/unshoveled snow.

A new developing and possibly worse problem than the roads, however, is the water. Thanks to the deep freeze and now the thaw, many water pipes are bursting. Adding to this problem is that during the cold days and nights many people kept their water running in their sinks in a bid to prevent their pipes freezing.

As a result water supplies are extremely low. Many local authorities are asking people to limit their water usage; some are just cutting off the water for hours each evening. This is the third straight night that Dublin has issued water warnings, with many areas cut off completely from 7pm to 7am.

Frozen roads and sidewalks and now water shortages. It's easy to see why the people of Ireland are so keen on returning to their normal wet winter weather. Rain will wash away the ice and fill the reservoirs. Bring it on!

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