ESB repairs the damage as winds die down but more storms are on the way


The winds are abating but we should expect frost in the coming days, according to Met Eireann, and stormy weather may return midweek.

ESB crews are working around the clock to restore electricity to the 135,000 homes left without power in the south. By yesterday evening, only 20,000 homes still had no electricity as a result of what the ESB said was the worst storm damage to the network in more than 20 years.

An ESB spokeswoman thanked the public for its continuing co-operation, and warned people to stay away from fallen electricity poles and lines, which should be reported to the ESB or the gardai.

It will be windy today, but the winds will not be as severe as those on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which reached hurricane force in parts of the country. The temperature will drop tonight, but there should be enough wind about to prevent frost. Tomorrow night, however, there will be freezing temperatures and roads could be slippy on Monday morning.

But we are not "out of the woods yet" with the windy weather, she warned. It will be "windy enough" on Tuesday and Wednesday with a danger of storms but "we'll be watching out for that", she said.

The storms that battered the south over Christmas left 135,000 homes without electricity on Christmas Day. Emergency ESB crews, involving 1,000 staff from all over the country, were drafted in to Munster and south Leinster to try to restore power. By yesterday morning, only 70,000 homes had no electricity and the ESB hoped to reduce this by a further 50,000 by last night. But it said a lot of the damage was caused in quite inaccessible areas.

Worst-hit were Tralee, Kanturk, Killarney, south Kerry, west Cork, Waterford, parts of Wexford and Wicklow, Limerick city and county, and Clare, including Ennis and Kilrush, according to the ESB.

Gusts of up to 100 m.p.h. were recorded at Valentia, Co Kerry, on Christmas Eve when a severe depression hit the south-west, and there was a report of a gust of 107 m.p.h. at Waterford airport, according to a Met Eireann spokesman.

It is thought to have been the most severe storm in this part of the country since 1974, though Connacht and Ulster usually experience similar storms at least once or twice during the winter, according to Met Eireann.

Although the storm was at its most severe in the south, there were high winds everywhere, with gusts of 94 m.p.h. recorded at Baldonnel, and there was structural damage with debris flying around in many areas. Temperatures were above normal.

The winds were accompanied by rain, but this was not unusually heavy, with just over half an inch falling in Valentia and Cork.

A second depression approached from the south-west on Christmas Day. This was less severe but brought gusts of 77 m.p.h. to Valentia.

The north fared better but still experienced gale-force winds, with gusts of 73 m.p.h. at Malin Head and up to 80 m.p.h in south Donegal.

The storm disrupted the travel plans of thousands of holidaymakers. Regional airports were badly hit and flights from Dublin to Cork, Shannon, Galway and Kerry were cancelled. The passengers were bussed from Dublin to these destinations.

Cork airport was closed at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and four flights were diverted from Stansted, Gatwick and Manchester to Shannon. The passengers were bused from Shannon to Cork. But buses had to be diverted because of fallen trees on the road.

Power was cut at Shannon airport and the terminal building had only emergency lighting. Phones were also hit by the power cut and a Boeing aircraft was tipped over by the wind and damaged at the airport.

All airports were closed as usual on Christmas Day, and things had returned to normal yesterday. One flight to Amsterdam was delayed due to bad weather there, but otherwise flights were leaving on time, and the airport was busy.

Road, rail and sea travel was also disrupted, as fallen trees blocked roads, trains were delayed because of the high winds and sailings cancelled, according to AA Roadwatch.

Trees fell on several roads around Dublin, and part of the Statoil service station on the Greenhills Road and the Plaza hotel in Tallaght were blown off. In Co Meath, part of the Millhouse pub came off. Phoenix Park was closed on Christmas Eve evening because of fallen trees on its roads. Power failures affected traffic lights in Killiney, Clondalkin, White's Cross and the junction of Collins Avenue and Swords Road.

At one point on Christmas Eve the trees, branches and debris on the roads in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow were so great that gardai advised people not to drive. Roads were also blocked in Cork, Waterford and Portlaoise.

Sailings were cancelled on Christmas Eve and trains were running up to three hours late because drivers had to reduce their speed limit to 50 m.p.h. There were no sailings or trains on Christmas Day, as usual.