200,000 expected to be without power overnight due to hurricane-force winds

ESB has ‘mammoth task’ ahead; National emergency group says storm to clear tonight

Limerick resident Jill Holmes tells how she watched her balcony door fall onto the street as the side of her apartment building was ripped off in today's storm. Video: David Raliegh

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 22:11

Hurricane-force winds have left almost 200,000 homes and businesses without power as the national emergency group met and said the storm is expected to clear tonight.

Most of the 194,000 customers are expected to be left with no electricity overnight as ESB Networks says it has a “mammoth” task ahead after the storm.

There were 260,000 without power at the peak of the storm, it said.

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The ESB has drafted in additional crews to the worst hit area, the southwest where and is prioritising making safe damaged equipment.

The Kinsale gas platform off the coast of Cork recorded wind gusting to 96 knots or 178km/h while inland hurricane force winds of 177km/h were recorded.

The National Co ordination Group for severe weather came together tonight to review the storm. Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar attended the meeting and the group issued a statement saying “the storm has had major impact on transport, electricity and communication infrastructure and buildings, disrupting travel and communities. Rail services were disrupted and airports were closed for a period. Roads and traffic were disrupted by overturned lorries in a number of cases.

It urged people to check on vulnerable neighbours and to keep warm. It said local authorities were clearing fallen trees but it may take some time. The group urged morning commuters to take care as ice is expected on roads and there may be debris.

A major emergency plan was declared in Kilkenny earlier today after the council was dealing with dozens of incidents , but has since been stood down. Gardaí told Limerick residents to stay indoors as winds battereh d the county, and Shannon and Cork airports shut down for a time.

In Dublin residents of the Waterway Apartments, Ashtown have been advised to stay indoors. Originally residents were going to be evacuated due to structural damage to the property from the storm, gardai said. However only residents in the penthouse have been asked to leave. The ESB assessed the situation and are no longer at the scene. An engineer will asses the damage when the weather improves.

The Dart remains suspended between Dalkey and Bray due to problems on overhead lines at Shankhill. The gardaí have reported problems caused by trees blocking roads across the Capital. Dozens of flights in and out of Dublin airport have been cancellled.

Met Éireann extended the Status Red severe wind weather warning , their highest alert, to Leinster, Connacht and Munster.

Limited train services are now back operating to and from Kerry, Limerick and Cork, however passengers can expect long delays. <

ESB Networks managing director Jerry O’Sullivan said crews had been working through the day but conditions were “extremely dangerous”, with gusts of 173km/h.

“We are dealing with a situation that is as bad if not worse than anything that we have seen in the past decade,” he said.

Mr O’ Sullivan said today’s storm in comparison to December were of a “different magnitude” and would take longer to repair.

“Customers who need a constant supply of electricity for medical or other purposes are advised to make alternative arrangements,” he said.

ESB said it was the worst mass power outage to hit Ireland for more than 15 years.

“It was 1998 the last time the outage scale was as high as this,” an ESB spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, some 11,500 Eircom customers are without landline phone services yesterday and a spokesman said he expected that number to “rise significantly”, with areas of the west, south-west and south worst affected.

“It will be weeks before everyone’s service is restored,” he added.

An Post said mail servies are “severely affected” due to storms including in Co Kerry, Limerick and parts of Co Clare.

The fire service was extremely busy today with a number of vehicles trapped under fallen trees; and the storm has also caused structural damage to some buildings.

Gardaí have told Limerick residents to stay indoors as the storm ripped roofs off of buildings including the Limerick Rowing House.

University of Limerick students were advised to stay in the college buildings for their own safety with reports of windows broken from the severe winds.

Sarsfield Road was been closed off as part of building has collapsed.

Shannon Airport said it had been forced to close for several hours today after a plane had tipped over in high winds.

Cork Airport was also closed for a time due to safety fears. AA roadwatch said the River Lee had burst its banks.

Earlier, Kerry County Council warned people to stay indoors at all costs with trees falling.

A council spokesman said roofs were blown off buildings everywhere in the county, including Tralee, Castle Island and Dingle.

Children in Listellick Primary School at North Tralee had a lucky escape when the roof of their prefabricated classroom where they were studying blew off in the gales.

“The kids are ok. It’s quite dangerous out there. We’re advising people everywhere-stay in, full stop. Don’t come out,” he said.

The spokesman said road crews had a near miss with a falling tree.

“There’s trees down everywhere but its too dangerous for them to be out there now,” he said.

Waterford Airport reported winds gusting to 81 knots or 150km/h.

A tornado was reported in Roscommon, with homes and cars damaged by high winds and flying debris from trees and broken fencing. Winds gusting to 111km/h were recorded by the Marine Institute’s databuoy M5 off the south east coast by midday.

Meanwhile, road safety chiefs urged people to use caution when travelling. They said road users should be mindful of excess surface water and risk of floods in places and urged them to check local weather and traffic reports in the area before making a journey.

Trees and telegraph poles were reported down in parts of Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Clare, while AA Roadwatch said it had reports of flying debris on the Dingle peninsula, including shed roofs.

Elsewhere, a truck overturned on the M8 northbound between Fermoy and Mitchelstown.