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Thunder, hail, frost, sleet and snow on the cards this weekend

Thunder, hail, frost, sleet and snow on the cards this weekend

The country got a sharp, bitter cold shock this week as temperatures plummeted, heralding the definite arrival of winter.

Treacherous icy roads and snow has been reported in many parts of the country the last two days - and it's not set to get much better.

"The most significant thing about the weather this weekend is that it's going to be cold, very cold," Met Eireann's Gerry Murphy told independent.ie.

The woollies will remain the fashion staple throughout Saturday and Sunday as heavy rain or hail showers have been forecast - with sleet and snow expected to fall on higher ground.

"We are in a northeasterly air flow at the moment with the air coming down from Greenland sending plenty of chilly showers our way," the forecaster said.

"Today will be a cold, blustery day with plenty of showers - particularly over Connaught, Ulster and Munster. There will be drier spells over Leinster - with longer dry spells between the showers."

Hail and thunder may accompany some of the showers which will become wintry overnight "with snow possibly on hills" and temperatures dropping below freezing for a frosty, icy night. 

While average temperatures over the next few days will be between a chilly 4-7 degrees, freezing temperatures as low as -3 with widespread frost have been forecast. 

Those looking to do anything outdoorsy this weekend should opt to do so on Saturday as conditions are expected to improve slightly.

"Saturday will be mainly dry with sunny spells as heavy wintry showers become isolated and confined to the more western and northern areas. However, outbreaks of rain developing in the evening will affect the east and the south coast - so conditions will be wet enough on Saturday and into Sunday morning," Mr Mooney said.

Moving towards Sunday night, there will be scattered showers with good clear spells and some showers will turn wintry on higher ground again with temperatures falling as low as -3 degrees. Some mist or fog is expected to form as northwest to westerly winds ease off.

The AA has already warned the arrival of wintry weather will lead to increased breakdowns - adding further to the misery of drivers.

A "surge" in car breakdowns has been predicted - and possible delays on major routes over the next few days.

Louise Kelly