The country is bracing itself for a period of exceptionally cold weather with temperatures set to plummet within the next 24 hours.

A status orange warning - the second highest level - has been issued for the east of the country ahead of one of the coldest weeks in three decades.

Daytime temperatures in Dublin by midweek are forecast to dip to 0C.

The National Emergency Co-ordination group met today to discuss preparations. Gritters will be out from early tomorrow morning ahead of expected heavy snow fall. 

People have begun preparations for the freezing weather conditions by stocking up on as much fresh produce from supermarkets around the country as possible. Many sold out of the essentials this evening.

However, retailers say the stocks will be replenished tomorrow in time for people to stock up on the winter supplies.

Met Éireann has upgraded its snow-ice warning to Orange for counties Dublin, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Wicklow and Meath.

There is also a Status Yellow warning for Kilkenny, Longford, Wexford, Offaly, Westmeath, Cork, Tipperary and Waterford, as well as a low temperature warning for the entire country with temperatures expected to drop to -5C overnight.

Thursday and Friday are expected to be the worst days with heavy snow and low visibility on the roads.

Earlier, the NECG's chairperson said he is confident they will be able to manage conditions and efforts will be made to "keep Ireland moving as much as it can".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Sean Hogan said there is a "good degree of confidence in what's coming", but warned the snow will cause difficulty as it will not clear away.

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He said he believed there were more than enough snow ploughs and salt in place for the roads and airports and this will be addressed with heads of transport at the meeting.

Mr Hogan also said that individual schools will have to make their own decisions, adding that conditions will vary across the country.

He said that people are advised to keep warm in their homes, to keep an eye on their neighbours and for motorists to travel with a charged phone and a blanket.

The National Emergency Coordination Group meeting

Deputy Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack said she expects a red weather alert to be issued later this week.

She said the high danger area "countrywide" will be on Thursday evening through to Friday morning when "dynamic snow" is expected.

She said the country will experience blizzard-like conditions later in the week.

Conditions will deteriorate from tomorrow night, said Ms Cusack, with a "fair amount of snow" expected in eastern coastal counties by Wednesday morning.

She said: "The high danger area, countrywide, is Thursday evening, Thursday night and Friday morning, as what we call a dynamic snow weather system is pushing up from the Bay of Biscay.

"There is a lot of precipitation associated with it and as it hits the cold air across Ireland and Britain, there is a high risk of some very heavy snow."

The air mass is coming from Siberia and will be extremely cold and the wind chill will make it feel well below zero.

A Status Yellow low temperature warning was in place for last night with temperatures to falling as low as -3C.

It will be very cold and frosty tonight with a few light snow flurries, but many places will be dry.

Lowest temperatures tonight will range from -2 to -5C.

The storm is moving westwards, as heavy snow has hit Britain with warnings of disruption to roads and public transport.

Some parts of the UK are set to feel colder than the Arctic Circle as freezing temperatures continue into the week ahead.

Train services are expected to be cancelled or delayed today as the snow sets in.