Hurricane Ophelia: All schools and colleges closed as red weather warning extended nationwide

HSE appointments, Bus Éireann services, postal services and court sittings cancelled ahead of worst storm in 50 years

The National Emergency Co-ordination Group has warned that Hurricane Ophelia is the most powerful storm system to hit the country in 50 years as the number of counties subject to a red weather warning increased. Video: Cyril Byrne

 

Met Éireann has extended a red level wind warning to the whole country as Ireland braces itself for the arrival of Hurricane Ophelia, ahead of what is predicted to be the worst storm in more than 50 years.

The severe warning will run from 6am on Monday to 11.59pm that night.

The Department of Education has said that all schools, colleges and other institutions will close on Monday as a result. All schools in the North have also been advised to close, according to the Stormont press office.

Ibec has urged all businesses to “minimise the movement of their employees” on Monday.

Bus Éireann has cancelled all its services between 5am and 2pm on Monday. An Post has cancelled all its post services, while Dublin City Council said all its parks, libraries and swimming pools will be closed.

Irish Rail has said the Limerick Junction to Waterford and Limerick to Ballybrophy via Nenagh services will not run on Monday morning.

Most court sittings nationally are being postponed.

Met Éireann released the following statement at 8pm on Sunday night: “Ex-Hurricane Ophelia is forecast to track directly over Ireland during daytime Monday. Violent and destructive gusts are forecast with all areas at risk and in particular the southwest and south in the morning, and eastern counties in the afternoon. Also heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding. There is potential risk to lives.”

The forecaster said preparations to protect lives and property should be taken on Sunday if possible.

Red weather warnings refer to the most severe weather conditions, in which people are advised to “take action to protect themselves and/or their property”.

On Sunday night, the Department of Education said it was now publicly informing all schools, colleges and other education institutions that they are to remain closed on Monday.

It said this decision had been made following discussions with members of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and in light of the advice from Met Éireann.

An Garda Síochána has urged people not to make any non-essential journeys and to avoid cycling.

The Coast Guard has advised extreme caution on Monday and urged people to avoid any visits or walks to coastal or cliff areas.

Hurricane-force winds

Met Éireann said gale-force winds were expected to hit the south by early Monday morning and gradually spread northwards across the country during the day.

Hurricane-force winds are expected to reach southern coastal counties by late Monday morning, with storm-force winds spreading inland and northwards across the country during Monday.

Wind gusts in the west and southern counties could exceed 130km/h, with mean wind speeds upwards of 80km/h.

The forecaster said a dangerous storm surge was expected to produce significant coastal flooding near and to the east of where the centre of the post-tropical cyclone makes landfall. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.

The storm is expected to produce rainfall of up to 50mm in parts of the west, with isolated totals above 50mm in elevated areas of the south and west. Across eastern Ireland, rainfall amounts will likely average less than 30mm.

All HSE outpatient appointments, all social welfare customer appointments and all driving tests have been cancelled on Monday .

(An extensive list of closures and delays on Monday can be found here.)

Preparations

During a meeting in Dublin on Sunday morning, the National Emergency Coordination Group discussed preparations for the storm.

Seán Hogan, national director for fire emergency management, said that “everybody in this country needs to take heed of what is coming tomorrow”.

“The nature of the extreme weather conditions are expected to be comparable with or perhaps to exceed, those of Hurricane Debbie in 1961, when 11 deaths occurred with a similar type storm,” he said.

The group urged the public to avoid all unnecessary travel while the storm was passing their area.

The group will meet again on Monday.

Met Éireann said Hurricane Ophelia was a Category 3 storm and it was the most powerful hurricane this far east of the US on record.

Sandbags have already been distributed in some areas in advance of possible coastal flooding which could arise from high winds and sea swells.

Defence Forces are on standby to deploy resources, including transport and engineering assets.

Power outages are likely to occur in certain parts of the country. ESB Networks is advising the public to stay away from fallen cables that may have broken down due to high winds.

It has advised that real-time information on power outages and restoration times will be available at: www.esbpowercheck.ie, with further information at http://updatesfromesb.com/.

People were asked to check in on isolated and vulnerable neighbours on Sunday in advance of the severe weather conditions.

For much of the weekend, a lesser orange warning had been in place for counties other than Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Clare, Kerry and Galway.

The Met Office issued an amber warning for Northern Ireland, meaning there is a “potential risk to life and property”. The warning is issued when forecasters believe people need to be prepared to change their plans and protect themselves from the impacts of severe weather.

For a detailed breakdown of the conditions expected around the country click here.

Airports

Cork Airport has said that some 26 Aer Lingus and Aer Lingus Regional flights in and out of the airport on Monday had been cancelled. Passengers can rebook free of charge, cancel or apply for a refund at aerlingus.com.

A spokeswoman for Shannon Airport said a number of flights to and from the airport had been cancelled on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Dublin Airport Authority said it was liaising closely with Met Éireann to assess the possible impact of the storm.

Aer Lingus, British Airways, Air France, CityJet and KLM have all cancelled some Dublin Airport services on Monday, while Ryanair has said its flights are expected to operate as scheduled.

Passengers are advised to arrive early for flights, particularly on Monday morning, and to check with their airlines for updates prior to departure.

UK forecast

Weather forecasting services in the UK are also preparing for the tail end of the hurricane to hit their shores.

The British forecasting service has said the storm could bring winds of between 100km/h-120km/h when it arrives on Monday.

UK Met Office forecaster Alex Burkhill said cold sea temperatures mean Ophelia will not be strong enough to be categorised as a hurricane when it hits Britain.

A yellow warning is in place for much of Wales, Scotland, northeast England, northwest England, southwest England and the West Midlands.