© Independent.ieTwo occupants of this car had a lucky escape after it left the road near Dunlewey, Co Donegal
Householders and motorists have been warned to brace themselves for a new spell of severe freezing weather with temperatures set to plummet to record levels over the coming week.

Warnings to exercise extreme care were issued last night with a severe weather alert being given for a 48-hour period tomorrow.

Arctic winds will now keep Ireland firmly in an icy grip until January 3 and fears are mounting that temperatures in some upland northern areas could sink as low as minus 12 C on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Met Eireann said that, apart from last year, Irish winters have been relatively mild in recent times -- which is making the current cold snap feel even frostier as arctic air sweeps the country.

Local authorities were last night racing to bring in extra supplies of grit and salt amid predictions that icy roads will be far more treacherous over the coming days than last week. Gardai again asked motorists to postpone all unnecessary journeys, if possible; but if they have to travel, to slow down and exercise extreme caution on the roads.

Freezing fog and ice left many roads in Co Cork and Co Kerry treacherous yesterday -- with gardai urging drivers to take extreme care in Fermoy, Youghal, Blarney, Mallow, Doneraile and Bandon.

About a dozen crashes were reported around Cork, although none involved serious injuries.

Conditions were also hazardous in the north-west yesterday where roads remained frozen over.

The Donegal Mountain Rescue team mobilised its members to assist in several aid missions.

Among the worst affected was the 'Back of Errigal' Road stretching across the mountains from Termon to Dunlewey, which was closed for a time.

Delegates travelling to the annual Frankie Kennedy Winter School in Dunlewey, which opened yesterday, were forced to take a detour.

Roads in the Inishowen peninsula, even those that had been gritted, remained dangerous throughout the day.

In Sligo, minor roads were worst hit, with motorists being asked to avoid the Gurteen to Ballaghaderreen road and Gurteen to Cloonloo roads in particular.

Driving conditions led to several minor incidents but no major accidents were reported.

The Boyle to Frenchpark road and the R280 Kinlough to Manorhamilton route in north Leitrim were impassable for a time yesterday morning and several vehicles had to stop along the route because they were unable to travel any further.

The roads also remained treacherous in Dublin yesterday and the N4 near Palmerstown was shut briefly due to severe ice.

The Dublin Fire Brigade said they had been kept busy with call-outs from pensioners, who had slipped and fallen on icy patches, while freezing fog led to races at Leopardstown being abandoned.

In Galway and Mayo, both national and non-national roads were described as being dangerously icy.

Thousands of homes throughout mid-Galway were without water again yesterday because of problems at the Mid-Galway Regional Water Supply Scheme station in Abbeyknockmoy.

Galway County Council said pumps at the station were in overdrive and in danger of overheating.

This is believed to be a result of householders leaving taps running day and night to avoid pipes freezing over as temperatures in the west have plummeted over the past fortnight.

Freezing fog made conditions around Castlebar, Co Mayo, very difficult early yesterday and, while the fog later lifted, road conditions remained dangerous.

In Co Roscommon, the areas worst affected were around Boyle, Castlerea and Ballaghaderreen.

A driver alert was issued in Galway last night after the city council ran out of salt and grit for the icy roads.

Fine Gael claimed it was outrageous that councils weren't able to make roads -- particularly non-national routes -- safe in the freezing spell because of a chronic lack of funds for gritting and salting crews.

Fine Gael road safety spokesman Shane McEntee TD claimed such funding shortfalls were threatening people's lives.

Meanwhile, Irish Water Safety has issued a warning for people -- particularly youngsters -- not to play on or near ice.