Storm Ophelia clean-up: Two thirds have electricity and water restored

Luas tram services resume earlier than expected after repairs at Red Cow

Fallen trees and other debris is being cleared from roads all over the country. Crews in Galway were up early removing rocks and seaweed ahead of opening up coastal roads. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

A massive national clean-up operation is continuing after Storm Ophelia swept across the country, leaving 137,000 homes and business without power and causing significant transport disruption. Most will have power restored within three to four days. This is down 65 per cent per cent on peak figures.

About 48,000 households are without water , according to Irish Water. This number is down from the peak of 109,000. Cork and Waterford are the counties worst affected by water outages.

Three people were killed on Monday in what was the worst storm to hit Ireland in more than 50 years.

Luas services on the red and green lines returned earlier than expected on Tuesday evening, according to a notice on the Dublin tram service’s website.

The interruption to the Luas services follows damage to a technical room in the Luas Red Cow depot in Clondalkin was damaged during Storm Ophelia.

A Transdev spokeswoman told RTE Radio that gust of wind hit the roof of the Red Cow Luas depot yesterday. They had been working hard all day to deal with wind damage to the technical rooms and roof. The technical rooms are where overhead power lines are managed from and automatic vehicle location systems are located, she said.

The Department of Education said schools, VTOS and Youthreach centres will reopen tomorrow and school transport will be back in operation, subject to any damages experienced at a local level.

Outdoor crews have been removing trees around the country. All national routes are now clear with the focus switching to regional and local routes. People are reminded to continue to take care when driving because of possible debris on the roads.

Thousands of fallen trees have been cleared and all public transport is up and running.

Criminal offence

Meanwhile Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will consider making it a criminal offence to ignore severe weather warnings as some people - such as those who went swimming in Galway - did during Storm Ophelia.

Mr Varadkar was speaking as he visited an ESB crew repairing power lines on the Meath-Kildare border on Tuesday evening.

“I think it is something that merits consideration,” The Taoiseach said. “People who disobeyed the red alert and travel warnings yesterday didn’t just put themselves at risk they also put at risk the lives of other people, particularly our emergency services. But I would never rush into creating a new crime. I think it is something that we will have to consider.

“It was suggested today in the Dail that we would look at it on an all party basis and that’s what I’d like to do.”

The Taoiseach also said the cost of the clean up and repairs from the storm will not be enough to qualify for solidarity funding from the European Union. He suggested that the overall cost of cleaning up after the storm, and for some repair works, may not be as high as had been initially feared.

Mr Varadkar said this was largely due to the fact that there hadn’t been significant levels of funding, which would have caused road damage.

Evaluation

The Cabinet has decided to carry out a full evaluation of the State’s response to Storm Ophelia, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil. He said on it would be done when the clean-up was completed and power and water were restored to everyone .

“I think it is always possible to learn lessons and always possible to strengthen your response to a national emergency,’’ he added.

He said local authorities would receive additional resources to assist in the clean-up. Mr Varadkar said it was the worst storm to hit Ireland in 50 years or more and it was the first time to have a national alert.

On climate change, he said it was a scientific fact there would be more storms and severe weather in the years ahead and there was a need to prepare for that.

Clean up

Over 3,000 local authority staff, are currently on the ground helping the clean up and recovery efforts. Local authority staff have been responding to calls of trees blocking roads throughout yesterday evening and today.

In Wexford the local council estimate 600 trees blew down in the storm, and Waterford council said staff have responded to calls to deal with 200 fallen trees.

Power Outages

ESB Networks said remaining customers will have power restored in three tofour days.

Customers in the Northwest and Dublin will have full power restored by Tuesday evening, however serious damage remains in the south and southwest.

ESB crews are also making significant progress in counties Laois, Kerry, Galway, Clare and Westmeath.

Some 100,000 customers in Cork and Kerry have had their power restored.

ESB say they will have estimated restoration times for customers still without power by Wednesday morning and that networks will contact vulnerable customers with no electricity on Tuesday evening.

The Defence Forces have deployed personnel, two helicopters and a water tanker as part of the national response to the storm damage.

Some 2,500 ESB Networks staff are on the ground, supported by approximately 1,000 contractors, working across 5,500 locations to restore power.

Derek Hynes, operations manager at ESB said staff from Northern Ireland would be arriving to assist Irish repair crews this evening, and crews from France and Scotland would be arriving on Wednesday and Thursday as well.

My Hynes said there has been reports of several emergency services staff and telecommunications repair crews having “near misses” with live electrical wires in the aftermath of the storm.

Phone services

Eir has estimated that about 150,000 customers are without broadband, telephone and mobile services as a result of Storm Ophelia.

“The storm has delivered unprecedented and widespread levels of damage to Eir’s infrastructure including damage to poles and cables” a spokeswoman said.

“While damage has been sustained throughout the country, the Southwest and Midlands are the worst affected areas and in particular Cork County” she said.

Large scale broadband and mobile network failures have been restored in Kinsale, Co Cork and Tralee, Co Kerry following work by technicians.

But Eir have warned more network outages may occur today, as backup generators that were powering some areas yesterday run out of power.

A breakdown of faults in specific counties include: 51,000 in Cork; 10,000 in Wexford; 9,000 in Tipperary; 6,000 in Galway; 3,000 in Kildare; 2,000 in Kilkenny; 2,000 in Kerry; 2,000 in Waterford; and 2,000 in Wicklow.

Water Service

Customers relying on water storage has dropped by 260,000 to just over 100,000 people.

Irish Water says it is confident the number of households without water will continue to fall “significantly” in the coming hours.

Some 16 generators have been installed at drinking water plants to support the demands of those plants without power. Irish Water says a further 23 generators are en route to help restore supplies to the 64,000 customers in the most impacted areas. An estimated 30 wastewater treatment plants are still without power nationally.

Speaking at a briefing after the National Emergency Coordination Group meeting on Tuesday afternoon JErry Grant of Irish Water said: “Waterford is served by a very large number of small borehole schemes, many of whom have been without water since early yesterday, and therefore a lot of our emergency response effort is in Waterford, we have tankers deployed there and also bottled water being sent down, and are contacting vulnerable customers.”

He appealed for people to conserve water.

Irish Water earlier said customers in some areas may experience disruptions in water supply today, or boil water notices, due to the aftermath of the storm.

Irish Water has warned that up to 360,000 people could be without water if power is not restored to 92 schemes around the country.

Power outages at critical water treatment plants mean Irish Water expect to serve boil water notices in areas where the water supply has not been treated.

The loss of power is causing problems at pumping and treatment plants and there is also the prospect of burst pipes once damage has been assessed.

Some schemes are operating at present with generators, but this is just a short term option, a spokesperson told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Meanwhile tankers are being put in place to provide water supplies where necessary.

There have been no reports as of yet of problems with sewerage, although six treatment plants are without power, three of which are relying on generators.

Rail services

Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus is operating as normal, albeit with some delays due to debris and fallen trees. Dublin Bus is accepting Luas tickets today while Luas services are down. Most Irish Rail services are operating, aside from significant delays to Dublin/Cork services

Irish Rail cancelled a number of early morning train journeys following inspections of the train tracks for debris from Storm Ophelia.

The country is facing days of “catch-up” as schools, hospitals, roads, electricity networks and other key public infrastructure are cleared of debris or repaired following Storm Ophelia.

The storm caused the most devastation in the south and west but left every county with some level of disruption.

Health Services

Health services will gradually return to normal over the next few days however some disruption is likely. Patients can expect some delays in their appointments and discharges from hospitals. It’s expected emergency departments and GP clinics will be very busy over the coming days.

Insurance

Householders worried about their home insurance coverage should check the full extent of their policies and contact their insurer or broker for more information.