Newtownabbey among areas worst hit as winter weather grips province

NEWTOWNABBEY was one of the worst affected areas of Northern Ireland following the heavy snowfall over the past week.

Snow and heavy winds wreaked havoc across the borough with homes left without electricity, schools closed and traffic chaos bringing misery to many commuters.

Shovel ready: Mayor Victor Robinson lends a hand to clear the driveway at his daughter's home on the Printshop Road, just outside Mallusk. INNT 16-603CON

Shovel ready: Mayor Victor Robinson lends a hand to clear the driveway at his daughter's home on the Printshop Road, just outside Mallusk. INNT 16-603CON

Conditions became so bad that the police helicopter was scrambled to help two elderly people in distress.

In one incident the helicopter delivered oxygen canisters to a 79-year-old man in the Mossley area who could not be reached by conventional means.

And again the helicopter was scrambled to help an 80-year-old Ballyclare woman who needed hospital treatment, however, in the end she was able to be transported by road.

Thousands of people were left without power, some for as long as three days. Farmers had to battle treacherous conditions to get food and shelter to their livestock. Many were not fortunate and there have been reports of animals dying in the snow across the borough and farmers having to pour milk down the drain because deliveries could not be made to dairies.

Elsewhere a number of events, including a family fun day in Glengormley and a charity talent contest in the Abbey Centre, both organised by the council, had to be cancelled and rescheduled along with most of the weekend’s sporting calendar.

Scores of church services from Glengormley to Ballyclare and beyond were also cancelled because of the treacherous conditions.

The road conditions became so difficult that many drivers were forced to abandon their cars over the weekend.

This had a knock-on affect of leaving the roads unable to be cleared and traffic reduced to one lane in places.

On Monday Glengormley was brought to a near virtual standstill because of the snow and the number of abandoned cars littering the area, and the council’s bin collections were also hampered.

As emergency crews battled to restore power and clear roads many local communities united to join in the clean-up operation along with many farmers who used their own equipment to help clear away the snow.

Mayor Victor Robinson urged people to look out for elderly or vulnerable neighbours.

“This weather has taken everyone by surprise, with parts of Newtownabbey having no snow at all and other parts having drifts of up to 8ft.

“The rural areas and farmers have suffered worst of all. However, I have witnessed great community spirit, with people helping to dig their neighbours’ cars out, and farmers on tractors helping to clear rural roads and long driveways.

“The main roads have been made passable reasonably quickly, but some rural roads were difficult to clear, and those in local housing estates have been cleared mostly by local residents pulling together,” he said.

“I would ask anyone living close to senior citizens or other vulnerable people to call in and make sure they have essential supplies such as milk, bread and heat.

“This is the time for community spirit. I hope everyone will stay warm and safe, and I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Easter.”