Northern Ireland

Extreme snow: One year on from worst blizzard in 50 years

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA farmer digs his sheep out of snow following the extreme weather conditions that hit Northern Ireland in March 2013

A year ago severe snow storms saw Northern Ireland suffer some of its most extreme weather in 50 years.

The storms decimated farms, trapped people indoors for days and buried everything from cars to livestock.

Farmer Campbell Tweed saw his livestock trapped and starved for four days.

His farm in Cairncastle, County Antrim, may be currently snow free, but he readily recalls last year's chaos.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The extreme weather saw snow drifts up to 12ft high

Trapped

"The snow was a foot higher than the wire fence. It came up to the tops of the trees. We had a lot of sheep buried behind the wire."

The farm lost 150 ewes, five rams and six young sheep in the conditions, a significant financial and physical loss.

Mr Tweed was not the only one critically affected by the snowfall.

The blizzard conditions began on Friday, 22 March and continued throughout the weekend.

Worst-hit were rural areas near Dromore, Ballyclare, Larne and Downpatrick.

Chaos

By Saturday morning, 35,000 people across Northern Ireland were without power.

Image caption Cars were buried and people trapped in their homes due to the snow

Many people in remote rural locations were trapped in their homes, as roads were blocked by snow drifts up to 12ft high.

These conditions would remain for days, forcing school closures and causing chaos for travellers.

The snow even saw whole cars swallowed by huge banks of snow, as video shows.

However, farmers bore the brunt of the conditions.

A month after the snow had cleared, the Department of Agriculture reported that 44,000 animal carcasses had been recovered.

Helpless

According to Mr Tweed, even those livestock that survived were traumatised by the event.

"Once we got roads open we were able to get silage and meal to them by the Monday and Tuesday. But it was fully another week before they came onto feed properly.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Roads were closed causing transport chaos for days

"Complete starvation and the hard conditions had given them a colossal shake.

"It was a very hard knock. We were just absolutely helpless for four days."

Mr Tweed said last year's event was even worse than the infamous snow storms of 1963.

This year has not seen a repeat of the extreme conditions.

"It's unusual to get it two years in a row," he said. "Last year was so exceptional it was like a 1 in 50-year event.

"I'm not expecting to see it again in my lifetime. But you never know."

More on this story