Hurricane Ophelia: Three dead and 295,000 without power as storm enters final hours

Luas cancelled and schools closed on Tuesday morning; Gusts continue but will fade overnight

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefs the media on the latest from Hurricane Ophelia. Video: Ciarán Fitzgerald/Merrion Street

 

Almost 300,000 properties are without power and three people have died as Hurricane Ophelia enters its final hours and has moved across the north west.

Met Eireann said the storm would not be over until about 1am with strong gusts and winds continuing but the winds will fade away overnight.

Members of the public have been advised to stay inside and not to make unnecessary journeys as the worst storm the country has seen in more than 50 years passes over.

Irish Rail plans to resume most services on Tuesday morning after suspending them on Monday afternoon. Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus plan to run full servies from first thing after cancellations nationwide on Monday.

However there will be no Luas service on the Red or Green lines tomorrow morning due to damage at a technical room at the Red Cow depot.

The death of a woman in the hurricane has been confirmed. A tree fell on the car in Aglish, Co Waterford shortly before noon. She has been named locally as Claire O’ Neill (58), a mother of one and a cancer care nurse .

Gardai say the driver in her 50s died when a tree came through the windscreen of the car and a passenger, her mother who was in her 70s, was injured. The woman is from the local area.

A man in his 30s has died in Ballybrado, Cahir, Co Tipperary . He was clearing a fallen tree and was seriously injured with a chainsaw. He has since passed away and his body has been removed to Clonmel Hospital. He has been named locally as Michael Pyke from Ardfinnan who lived in the village withhis father.

Meanwhile a man was fatally injured in a crash on a local road in Dundalk, Co Louth when his car was struck by a tree.

There were scores of road closures reported across the country with fallen trees blocking or partially blocking many national and regional roads. Local councils were working throughout the day to clear the roads.

Power outage

As of 9pm some 295,000 properties were without power as Hurricane Ophelia blows an “unprecedented” path of destruction across Ireland, according to the ESB. This was down from 360,000 earlier today. ESB earlier said there may be up to 450,000 outages by the end of the night.

“Pretty much every part of the country has been effected at this point in terms of electricity supplies,” said ESB spokesman Derek Hynes on Tuesday afternoon.

“Storm Darwin in February 2014 resulted in a loss of supply to 280,000 customers, the restoration effort during storm Darwin took up to 8 days across the country to restore supply to everybody,” he said.

“It is our position at the minute we expect approximately 450,000 homes and businesses to be without electricity by darkness this evening,” he said.

“Currently our prioritisation is looking at restoring the supply to vulnerable and medically effected customers and we will then move on into restoring supply to state infrastructure, schools, water supplies. communication facilities,” he added.

It could take several days to restore power with most people without power on Monday night and for a few days, ESB says.

Head of Corporate Affairs for ESB, Bernardine Maloney has urged members of the public not to ring the ESB unless it is an emergency. The ESB are urging members of the public to not ring in to report a power outage unless they are encountering an emergency.

“To report an emergency people can ring 1850-372-999. Do not approach any fallen lines, people sometimes think they should clear them off the road or to wrap them up or kick them to the side. They shouldn’t as they are live wires and dangerous.”

In Northern Ireland, NIE Networks said around 10,500 customers were without electricity across all parts of the North at 10.45pm, down from 18,000 earlier.

Telecoms company Eir said there is “unprecedented and widespread” levels of damage to its infrastructure,” including damage to poles, cables and masts. There are 11,000 customers without broadband, telephone and mobile services, it said. The worst affected areas so are in the Southwest, West and Midlands.

Water Supply

Irish Water said power outages are affecting treatment plants and pumping stations. However this has for the most part not impacted water supplies due to a combination of reservoir storage and backup generators on the more critical supplies. It said rainfall levels have been manageable. Irish Water envisage some supply restrictions between 10pm this evening and 7am tomorrow to conserve water where necessary.

Schools

The Department of Education has confirmed that schools will remain closed on Tuesday.

It said the decision was taken in the “interests of child safety”. It said while some schools may not be as badly impacted as others, thousands of homes and businesses were without power, many roads were closed due to fallen trees.

“It is also the case that school authorities will in very many cases not have had an opportunity to check their buildings and confirm they are safe, have power and water, and that routes to the school are safely open.”

It recognised the decision would have a major impact on families and the workforce. “ However, this decision has been taken in the interests of safety for children and to provide clarity for everyone concerned.” All schools, colleges and creches closed on Monday.

All schools in Northern Ireland have been advised to remain closed tomorrow, the Department of Education in the North has said.

The situation is less clear on the opening of creches and childcare providers. The Department of Children said the safety and welfare of children, staff and parents “ should be carefully considered by each service before they decide on service resumption”.

“Those whose premises have been damaged or are facing pro-longed power outages should advise their County Childcare Committees,” it said.

The University of Limerick will be open as usual on Tuesday .

As predicted

Sean Hogan, national director for fire and emergency management, said the extent of the damage unfortunately, was as predicted.

“It would be caused by very severe gusts, the kind of damage this particular hurricane and the nature of the pulsing gusts that this particular storm has brought to us has done damage, particularly with trees down, the impact that has had on roads, and transport, on the ESB.”

He extended his sympathies to those effected by fatalities caused by the storm.

“Public safety piece remains our key concern. It is still a very dangerous storm,” he said.

Met Eireann has issued a selection of strongest gusts:

Fastnet Lightnouse 191 km/h

Roches Point 156 km/h

Kinsale Platform 141 km/h

Waterford Airport 137 km/h

Sherkin Island 135 km/h

Cork Airport 126 km/h

Shannon Airport 122 km/h

Clean up

A spokesman for the Defence Forces said there were approximately 470 members of the Defence Forces available and this would be augmented tomorrow “as the nation moves from the phase of where the storm has actually hit the country to the assessment and then recovery phase”.

“More Defence forces assets, be they personnel, transport or specialist equipment, will then become available as required and they will be on standby in barracks and can be called out by the various local authorities,” he said.

Jim Casey, of the OPW said they are continuing to monitor storm surge tides and sea level conditions. Storm surges waves will continue to pose a significant threat to coastal areas, he said.

Sea areas may be up to a metre or slightly above a metre over the predicted normal astronomical tides due to storm surge and wave set up.

Dublin

Dublin is dealing with 70 incidents of felled trees and other debris following the worst of Storm Ophelia across the city. However, Dublin City Council said the capital had not suffered the same damage as other parts of the country.

In its final crisis management meeting of the day, the council said it had been notified of more than 150 incidents in the city, most of which were minor in nature. It said Dublin Fire Brigade, Roads, Traffic, Drainage and Waste Management Crews would continue to work throughout the night and that it expected all Dublin City Council Offices and Services would open as normal on Tuesday as well as the Just Eat dublinbike stations.

Dublin City Council requested that people continue to exercise caution and thanked council staff and members of the Dublin Fire Brigade for their hard work during the storm.

Michael D Higgins

Speaking on a State visit to Australia Michael D Higgins said: “I have no doubt that when the full assessment of the impact of Hurricane Ophelia is available some of the finer characteristics of the Irish people in responding to difficulties will emerge, and that people in Ireland will cooperate with each other in their usual way, and that those who work in public service will produce the extraordinary response for which they have such a great reputation.”

“I wish everybody safety, good health and the patience that no doubt will be required.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it could be as many as eight days before power is restored to all .

There was support in coming days “from the UK and Northern Ireland, power crews coming in from those jurisdictions to help out with the power outages and getting people connected again,” he said.

The “full resources of the State” would be available to deal with the damage caused, he said, while the Defence Forces had been deployed “in

Cork and other places” and were “ready to be deployed (elsewhere) as needed, at the request of local authorities,” he said.

The Irish Times has disabled its subscription meter, allowing unlimited access for 24 hours. Join us throughout the day for full coverage of the storm as it passes over Ireland. Our Ophelia liveblog is here.

Met Éireann extended a red level wind warning to the whole country warning Ophelia would pass directly over Ireland during daytime delivering “violent and destructive gusts” in all areas.

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”.

An Garda Síochána urged people not to make any non-essential journeys and to avoid cycling, while the Coast Guard has advised extreme caution on Monday and urged people to avoid any visits or walks to coastal or cliff areas.

The Government’s National Emergency Co-ordination Centre in Dublin said the full resources of the Defence Forces were available and homeless service providers would keep their premises open throughout the day.

It released the following advice:

- All unnecessary travel should be avoided today, while the storm is passing.

- Don’t travel during the height of the storm unless absolutely necessary.

- Listen to local radio and national media broadcasts regarding the current weather situation.

- High seas predicted, the public are advised to stay away from coastal areas during this period.

“- Very strong winds are predicted making driving conditions hazardous, especially for the more vulnerable road users, e.g., cyclists, pedestrian’s, motorcyclists and high sided vehicles. Road users should pay particular attention to the risk posed by fallen trees and flying debris.

- Given anticipated weather conditions, today is a no bike day.

- Power outages are likely to occur in certain parts of the country, with contingency planning activated by the ESB. The ESB is advising the public to stay away from fallen cables that may have broken due to the high winds. ESB Emergency Services can be contacted at 1850372999.

- Bus Éireann’s schools transport services will not be operating today. Because of the duty of care owed to children and to avoid the risk arising from travelling, the Department of Education and Skills has instructed all schools to act on the Department’s advice and remain closed. Crèches and Montessori facilities should also remain closed today.

- People are asked to check in on isolated and vulnerable neighbours today in advance of the oncoming severe weather conditions and again after the worst of the event has passed.

- People are advised to remove patio furniture, rubbish bins and any loose items from around buildings, which can be turned into missiles by the wind.

Air and sea rescues

The RNLI Rosslare all-weather lifeboat took a ten-metre yacht with three people on board under tow into Rosslare harbour, after a mayday was issued from the vessel shortly after 10am.

The yacht was nine miles off Rosslare, and was being swamped in heavy seas.

The RNLI crew put a drogue on the yacht to keep its bow up in heavy weather.

An RNLI spokeswoman said that all on board the yacht were understood to be safe and well, and the lifeboat was making progress towards the coast.

Separately, gardaí sought air-sea rescue assistance when several kite surfers among a group of five surfers in Dundalk Bay disappeared from view.

The Irish Coast Guard’s Dublin-based Rescue 116 helicopter was tasked, along with the RNLI Clogherhead lifeboat and Greenore Coast Guard in Co Louth.

However, the surfers made it back to shore, and the emergency services were stood down.