As Ireland basked in unseasonably warm weather this week, this time last year the country was hit with the heaviest snowfall in over 30 years.

No county escaped the blizzard-like conditions as several feet of snow shut airports, closed schools and roads - and sparked a rush on sliced pans in local shops across the country.

It all began in the last week of February when Met Éireann told the country to brace itself for a period of exceptionally cold weather.

On the Monday, bitterly cold weather gripped parts of Europe causing travel chaos, and a rare snow storm in Rome prompted Italian authorities to call in the army to help clear the streets.

Empty aisles
Worried shoppers stock up on sliced pans ahead of the storm

A Siberian weather system that British forecasters had dubbed the "beast from the east" was sweeping across Europe towards Ireland bringing snow, strong winds and the coldest temperatures for years to many regions.

On the Tuesday, a Status Orange warning - the second highest level - was issued for the east of the country.

A Status Yellow warning was in place for much of the rest of the country and temperatures were expected to drop to -5C overnight.

However, forecasters said that the weather alerts would probably be upgraded to a Status Red warning later in the week.

Storm Emma
Icicles hang from a house in Mullingar, Co Westmeath

The National Emergency Coordination Group met to discuss preparations. Gritters were put on standby as daytime temperatures were forecast to dip to 0C.

By Tuesday 27 February, people had begun preparing for the freezing weather conditions by stocking up on fresh produce from supermarkets. Many shops had sold out of bread and other essentials by the evening.

By the Wednesday evening, a Status Red snow and ice warning was put into effect for all counties with blizzard conditions expected from early on Thursday afternoon.

Army cadets Sallins Co Kildare
Army cadets help clear roads in Sallins, Co Kildare

Ultimately, the red alert stayed in place for some parts of Leinster until the Saturday morning as the bad weather lingered.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called on people to heed public safety warnings about the conditions that were expected.

The National Emergency Coordination Group for Severe Weather urged people to stay indoors until the Status Red weather alert was lifted.

Mr Varadkar said conditions like this had not been experienced in Ireland since 1982.

He said the risk to life presented by the severe weather conditions should not be underestimated by anyone.

Wicklow snow
Huge mounds of snow on a country road in Wicklow 

As the enormity of the situation became apparent, hospitals began to cancel appointments and schools and third-level institutions put in place plans to close for the remainder of the week.

By Thursday 1 March, the blizzard had arrived on the island, but it would not be until the following day when overnight snowdrifts would deposit the high accumulations that had been forecast.

Temperatures were forecast to remain at sub-zero all day in strong easterly winds with gale gusts giving significant chill.

snow drifts Kildare
Enormous snow drifts dwarf a woman out walking in Kildare

In a domino effect, services and institutions around the country began to shut.

There was no Dublin Bus service, no Bus Éireann services and a limited Luas and Dart service in the morning. But all transport services, including Iarnród Éireann, had shut by the afternoon.

Services remained shut the following day.

Airports struggled to stay open, but eventually all flights into and out of the country were cancelled. 

The HSE cancelled all outpatient appointments and non-urgent surgeries for the Thursday and Friday.

Schools, third level institutions and colleges of further education countrywide were shut.

All post offices were closed by 1pm on Thursday and did not reopen until the Saturday morning. 

The Defence Forces were put on standby to deal with emergencies.

Snowboarder Wicklow mountains
A snowboarder enjoys the weather in the Wicklow mountains

Social Welfare payments that were due on the Friday were paid on the Thursday.

Many shops and supermarkets were closed, as well as bank branches, and the Irish Stock Exchange closed at midday and remained closed on the Friday.

Around 250 schools closed across Northern Ireland, with counties Armagh and Down the worst affected.

Snow also affected flights at Belfast International and the George Best Belfast City Airport.

Deserted N11
A deserted N11 as drivers heed warnings to stay indoors

Additional beds were made available for people sleeping rough.

A warning of very high tides was put in place in Cork and Dublin.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service cancelled all donation clinics and many concerts were cancelled.

While most people stayed home during the storm, emergency service workers including doctors, nurses, paramedics, gardaí, firefighters, the Civil Defence and Defence Forces continued working during the week of the storm to help keep vital services up and running.

Street in Wexford
Even as the snow melted, many cars were still trapped 

County council crews also worked tirelessly to keep main roads gritted and open where possible. 

Across the country people helped one another to get their cars going, to get groceries and even to get some couples to the church on time for their weddings.

Glenn Cooper from Enniskeane, West Cork, married Ione Porto, from Brazil, at Monkstown Parish Church in south Dublin after she managed to get to the church with the help of some local gardaí.

Ione Porto
Ione Porto eschews the traditional vintage wedding car for a squad car

Reverend Canon Roy Byrne was the celebrant. Speaking before the ceremony, he said that despite the "extraordinary conditions", everyone was "really looking forward to it".

And the best man, Brian Keenan, did not want to risk missing the wedding so he lumbered through the snow on foot - all the way from Sandyford.


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Interestingly, it was reported in Cork that neither the Irish Examiner nor the Evening Echo newspapers were published on the Friday.

Apart from industrial action in the 1970s, during which the papers were not printed, it was believed to be the first time since the War of Independence/Civil War that the papers missed an edition.

The nationwide disruption did not end when the snow stopped - it took almost a week for services to get back to normal. 

Thousands of homes and businesses were left without power, telephone, broadband and mobile services after the red alert passed.

Thousands of homes were also without water, while many thousands more had water restrictions in place.

Hospitals were left dealing with a backlog of appointments and discharges, as well as a rise in demand for hospitals services as a result of slips, trips and falls.

When the thaw did eventually get under way, conditions remained treacherous in many places and there was warnings of potential flooding as the heavy snow melted.