Arctic blast due to hit Northern Ireland this week bringing disruption on our roads

It may be officially spring time, but winter is coming - again.

An arctic blast is coming our way with sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow that threaten to bring disruption to our roads.

A Met Office yellow warning for snow and ice is in place across counties Tyrone, Antrim, Down and Londonderry until 9am on Wednesday.

The cold snap could hardly happen at a more inconvenient time.

Industrial action by members of the trade unions Unite and GMB means that workers who would normally salt our road network will be on strike.

The gritters that keep our roads free from ice will be providing half their normal service.

The Department for Infrastructure says it asked the trade unions to postpone their strike during this week's period of severe weather.

Department spokesperson David Porter said: "Our normal reaction is that we would grit and snow plough 24 hours a day, that we would just keep a continuous service going.

"With the available resource we don't believe that we will be in a position to do that.

"Now normally we have an early morning action and we would have an evening action, but because of the impact of the strike and because of the reduced resource, we've had to focus all our attention just on the morning action."

But the GMB Union's Alan Perry says the department could have avoided any disruption.

"When we began the ballot for industrial action there was the potential that service would be disrupted, so they've had an opportunity to try and bring a resolution to this," he said.

"We've put what we believe is something on the table that could at least postpone it but as of now we've had nothing back from the department to indicate whether that would be acceptable to them."

For those on the road early, the unsalted roads meant a softly-softly approach.

Early morning motorists in mid-Ulster got a taste of the nasty weather that's due to hit on Thursday and Friday.

In the Sperrins, heavy snow and ice made for a tricky commute. The Glenshane Pass saw thick blizzards, but roads were open.

Near Coleraine, Malachy Sweeney operates a roadside food truck on the Dunhill Road.

He was at work at dawn, driving his trailer on icy roads: "There was a couple of heavy snow showers, and about half-eight or quarter to nine there was a big tailback of traffic here, way up this road."

The strike isn't just affecting gritting services. Road repair teams are also on strike and that means potholes aren't being repaired - and road maintenance is already under pressure.

Roy Nutt, the Northern Ireland chairperson of the National Tyre Distributors' Association, owns a tyre repair business near Limavady.

He says the poor of state of our road network is a hazard to motorists: "If you hit a pothole driving at 60 miles per hour and you have a blow-out in the front of your car where do you end up?

"So if they're going to the airport or travelling home at night and they hit one of these potholes they're into a couple of hours wait before the tyre dealers can get to them or the recovery people."

For drivers it's a case of slow down and be aware that for this week at least some routes will not be treated - even if the thermometer drops below zero.

And with more snow likely to arrive the message is take care, especially on untreated routes.

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