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Cold Snap survival Guide

Monday, 11 January 2010

With temperatures hovering around freezing on a daily basis, dipping to -12 degrees in some parts of the country, the nation is at a standstill. People are afraid to leave their homes for fear of falling on ice or crashing their cars.

Dearbhla Lennon- she's as cold as ice!

Dearbhla is probably one of Ireland's best known dancers, having begun her career at the tender age of two. Under the expert tuition of her mother, the legendary Móna Ní Rodaigh in her hometown of Dundalk, Co. Louth. Dearbhla learned to dance, coming from a family steeped in Irish tradition, her entire family talented in one discipline or another.

Aged just 17, she was invited to join the original cast of Lord of the Dance, where she subsequently performed as principal dancer (in both female principal roles) for over five years, touring in such places as North/South America, Europe, The Middle East, South Africa and Australia. Her first principal role was opposite the renowned Michael Flatley.

Dearbhla debuted as principal female dancer with "Riverdance- the show" in 2005 and traveled extensively in this capacity, performing in theatres across the Far East, Europe and Egypt.
Dearbhla graduated with a first class honours degree in Journalism and Media Communications in 2004. She was also awarded "Student of the Year" at Griffith College Dublin. Later that year Dearbhla worked with Riverdance director John McColgan in his highly acclaimed production of the play 'The Shaughraun' for the Abbey Theatre Dublin. During her time at college, she worked as both a fashion model and dancing teacher, having obtained her TCRG exam in 2001 and later, her ADCRG certification in 2008. She continues to teach dancing alongside her mother and sister Ciara; their school being one of the world's most successful- last year alone, they took home 17 Gold World Medals; the success continued this year with the schools highest ever medal count.

Some of the highlights of Dearbhla's dancing career include performing on The Academy Awards, performing for Prince Charles at The Royal Gala in The Royal Albert Hall, The opening of the 2003 Special Olympic Games (in front of an 80,000 strong live audience), The BBC Proms in the Park (where she performed as a soloist), winning RTE's 2007 'Celebrity Jigs N' Reels' with her partner Gavin O'Fearraigh and representing Ireland at the 2008 Eurovision Dance Contest.

After a brief period as a print journalist, having had a number of magazine cover stories, Dearbhla began working in television in 2005, both in front of and behind the camera. Currently working as a roving reporter for RTEs "The Afternoon Show" she was also recently involved in an Irish language series for TG4 where she was followed as she learned to play the concertina! Her most recent project is on TG4 where she takes the hot seat as a judge on "An Jig Gig", an Irish Dance talent show.

Dearbhla has been working as a reporter for The Afternoon Show since 2006, covering topics from the banal to the bizarre. Over the last three series, Dearbhla has (to name but a few) seen herself as an Antiques Expert, a Showbiz queen, she has delivered Random Acts of Kindness and has found some all round great value for the people of Ireland!

Top 10 Tips for surviving the cold snap:-

1. Treat the path/area round your home

As you can see, the best and cheapest way to get rid of ice and snow is with a little bit of elbow grease. Get your shovel out and clear the path after every snowfall and there won't be anything there to freeze. Brush away any remnants of snow as these will melt and re-freeze.

We then did a non-scientific experiment to see which of these four household products worked best at clearing the snow.

. Cat-litter - this worked well as a grit substance but didn't dissipate the snow/ice in any way. Great if you can't get your hands on salt.
. Lemon Juice - This appeared to work well initially but its longevity was useless. I imagine using real lemons might be more advantageous but it doesn't compare to the benefit of salt
. Rock Salt:- this was definitely the best in terms of getting rid of the ice and for a better grip. Rock salt can be expensive...but so can a fractured hip.
. Table Salt:- This worked really well at breaking down the ice but not as good as the rock salt in terms of gritting the surface and making it non-slip. Table salt is in short supply at the minute but a good thing to bear in mind is that farming supply stores keep good stocks of salt. The only trouble is getting to the farm supply store!

Top tip:- Do not throw warm water over the ice/snow to melt it. This may help in the short term but will worsen the area in the long term. The water will re-freeze making it deadlier than before.
Reportedly the best, albeit most expensive advice, is to clear an area with your shovel & brush and then pour Vodka on it. As vodka has a high content of ethanol, its freezing temperature is much lower than regular liquid. Pure alcohol will freeze at -114c, but vodka won't freeze until rouchly -30c - let's hope we don't experience that any time soon!

2. Keep your home warm

As per top advice from Joseph Di Mascio of - the best, and most efficient way to keep your house warm is to keep heating on constantly but at the lowest bearable temperature.

Obviously this advice has so many variables as there are so many different types of homes in Ireland, not to mention insulation systems. But if your house is a more modern house, you should leave the heating on all day only to turn it off at night when everyone is in bed.
If your house is a little bit older, you may need to leave the heating on (at a low temperature) all the time.

There is a fine line between wasting fuel and being comfortable. But it you allow the house to get cold, it takes huge effort on your heating system's part to heat up again. Old houses tend to swallow the cold into the bricks, leaving the house feeling damp and cold in between bursts of heat. Another danger with leaving the heating off for extended periods of time is that the pipes are in danger of cracking or bursting.

In terms of using electric appliances to heat rooms:-
Electricity can be expensive and whilst most homes use gas/oil to heat the house, electricity can be a great top up in terms of heating a room in short bursts or taking the initial chill from the air. It is not advisable however to use electric fan/bar heaters on a continuous basis as they are more expensive.

Jim Curran of the ESB would urge all elderly viewers to make good use of appliances such as their electric blanket- again bearing safety in mind.
Once you have used an electrical appliance to heat a room, turn it off and use draught excluders where possible to retain the heat in the room for longer.

3. Draw the curtains

This may seem a little rudimentary but rather than simply drawing the curtains to ward off the cold, tuck the curtains in behind the radiator so that the rads throw heat out into the room rather than straight up, under the curtains and out the window. If the curtains aren't long enough to tuck behind the radiator, place a few heavy books or something on the bottom of them so that the heat can't escape behind them.
During daylight hours, use anything (a towel, sweatshirt) as a draught excluder so that cold air doesn't creep in through old window frames.

4. Dress appropriately

Don't just wear one big wooly jumper but layer instead. This means that when you are going from one temperature into another, you can adjust layers as necessary. Air pockets between the layers also capture and retain the warmth from your body.
If you're wearing just one chunky knit jumper, you can't very well take it off in your friend's kitchen or in the office! Add a hat also, as it is estimated that we lose 10% of our body heat through our head!

5. Get it delivered!

Online shopping is fantastic for those who have access to the internet. Some supermarkets deliver direct to your door and will save you having to make a trip to the supermarket. Double check with your local shops by making a quick phonecall to see if they are doing deliveries at present- this may be a service they're willing to provide when people can't get to them.
The same goes for fuel suppliers- see if you can get your solid fuels delivered to the house rather than having to go into town to pick up what you need.
A thought for this week is to perhaps get more of the essentials than you normally would (things like milk, break, coal etc) as it will save you having to go out unnecessarily or having to put in another order.

If you don't have access to the internet but would like to have groceries delivered, then see if a neighbour/relative could place the order for you.

6. Inexpensive non -slip advice!

Use old (but dry) socks to give added grip over your shoes for short trips.
If you need to take the bins out or just need to grab something out of the car, pop an old pair of socks on over your outdoor shoes and this will give extra grip for a short period of time. Once the socks get wet, the time is up however! But it certainly works a treat for a short trip!

7. Eat well
May seem pretty obvious, but soup and comfort foods such as stews and casseroles are a great way to heat from within. Don't forget your elderly neighbours though and if you make a little extra each day, they won't forget you for it either.

8. Feed the birds!

Oran O'Sullivan of BirdWatch Ireland advised:

"Despite the harsh conditions here in Ireland, even harsher conditions in continental Europe mean that birds are still arriving into Ireland to escape the worst conditions.. In gardens many people have noticed newly arrived Fieldfares and Redwings, two species of thrush that originate in Scandanavia but winter here. Normally they forage over fields and hedgerows, but because ground is covered in a layer of snow and ice, they move into gardens to seek food. Also, at this time most of the berry harvest in hedgerows on trees such as holly and hawthorn is exhausted..

Members of the public and homeowners can help bird populations survive this prolonged cold spell by providing food supplies in the garden.. Apart from peanuts and mixed seed which are excellent sources of protein for garden birds, many cooked kitchen scraps are suitable for birds.. Bacon rinds, solidified fat such as lard and suet, perhaps mixed with seed are excellent, so too cooked potato, cooked rice (but not uncooked), oats flakes etc., and of course bread scraps. Ripe fruit such as apples and bananas are an additional source of energy that will be snapped up, but be sure to avoid any food stuff that is clearly gone off !

It is important to put out food early in the morning when birds are most active after long cold nights when much of a small birds body weight is burnt off trying to staying warm.. Place food in a part of the garden where you think birds are reasonably safe from predators such as cats.. If you havent fed birds before it may take a day or two for birds to find you, but is important to keep up regular feeding if you start, birds will come to depend on you!

Finally if you think water supplies are frozen and inaccessable to birds, you may like to provide a pan of fresh, shallow water; place in a sunny position to prevent freezing, though it may ice over for part of the day..

Best place for advice is the birdwatch ireland website,

9. Look after your pets

Animals can often be overlooked during a particularly cold period as we tend to focus on keeping the house warm and everyone safe. But they too need some TLC as the temperatures continue to drop. Here are some top tips for your pets, from horses to hamsters.

. Be sure that outdoor pets such as rabbits/guinea pigs have enough bedding and warmth. It might be an idea to move them to a shelter/shed for the time being. If you have ponies/horses, be sure they have safe access to shelter and fresh water. Double check that ice hasn't formed on their drinking water and maybe bring some old rugs out to use as protection from the cold and rain.
. Try to keep your dog moving. Although you may not feel like taking Rover out for a walk in the cold, he/she does still need to get some exercise- so where possible, keep the routine going.

. Keep an eye on your pets and keep them away from rivers/ponds that have frozen over. Whilst they may look like they're fairly solid, the weight of your pet may cause the ice to crack. If your pet does happen to fall into a frozen pond, don't attempt to jump in after it, call for help instead.

10. Don't underestimate the power of a cuddle!

Body heat is one of the nicest types of heat we can think of, so snuggle up on the couch either with someone you love or your favourite pet and you will keep each other warm! Try not to hug too many strangers though, you could get arrested for that!

Additional / Misc' Info:


Here's some useful treats you may already have in your kitchen cupboards.
. Use upside down bin lids as water dishes. Check them daily in case they freeze over.
. Peanuts, (monkey nuts) in shells threaded together on a string - make sure they are unsalted.
. Wild bird seed which is widely available in shops and garden centres.
. Grated cheese. Robins love this.
. Pastry, stale cake or biscuits and breadcrumbs. (Moisten bread if it's very dry). Melted fat can also be poured onto bread to make a 'bird cake.'
. Cooked rice or pasta.
. Many birds prefer to eat off the ground - blackbirds, thrushes and certain other birds are not used to eating from a table - so remember to place some feed on the ground.*
. Fat from bacon rinds. Robins love this.
. Dried fruit but soak in water first.
. Bruised fruit such as pears and apples.

* (Be aware that some fruit such as grapes, sultanas, raisins and artificial sweeteners can be toxic to dogs and other domestic animals, also to some wild animals, so place on a raised table and do not scatter these on the ground).