Schools and colleges close as Storm Barra poses ‘danger to life’

Status red warning for Cork, Kerry and Clare as people advised to stay at home

Cork County Council employees  prepare pumps for expected flooding  after Met Éireann issues a status red weather warning.  Photograph: Andy Gibson

Cork County Council employees prepare pumps for expected flooding after Met Éireann issues a status red weather warning. Photograph: Andy Gibson

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Schools and third-level institutions in many parts of the State will be closed on Tuesday because of Storm Barra, which Met Éireann has said could pose “a danger to life”.

The forecaster has issued status red weather warnings for Cork, Kerry and Clare, where people are being advised to stay at home because “damaging gusts” of up to 130km/h and possible coastal flooding are expected.

Power supplies and transport routes and services are expected to be impacted by the storm, with some hospital appointments cancelled in the southwest region. Some retailers and other service providers in areas forecast to face the brunt of the bad weather have said they will not open on Tuesday.

Status orange wind warnings were also issued for counties Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Mayo, Wexford, Dublin, Louth, Wicklow and Meath.

The warnings over Storm Barra, a weather system coming in from the Atlantic, are to come into effect from 6am and the storm is expected to be at its peak on the east coast between 8am and 1pm. Sustained storm conditions are expected in the southeast through Wednesday.

Speaking on Claire Byrne Live on Monday night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said this is the first time that schools in orange zone counties had been asked to close due to approaching bad weather. “That is based on the fact that this is an unusual weather event, it is not just high winds, and it is winds that tend to cause loss of life unfortunately.

“Based on the principle of safety first, and precautionary principle, a decision was taken ... to close the schools and colleges... it could be a two-day event, we don’t know that for sure yet,” he said.

Advice on schools and colleges opening on Wednesday will be issued by 6pm on Tuesday, he added.

An Garda Síochána advised that all unnecessary travel should be avoided in the counties where the wind warnings were in effect with conditions on the roads expected to be hazardous.

Status changes

The Department of Education advised that schools and colleges in all 12 counties under the red and orange alerts should remain closed.

“Met Éireann has advised that there is a strong possibility that the status of parts of these counties currently in status orange are likely to change and escalate to status red,” it said in a statement on Monday evening.

Seamus Mulconry, secretary general of the management body for Catholic primary schools, said: “I think it was a very prudent decision” to close schools in all 12 affected counties.

“Orange could quickly change to red and the last thing you want is to be having to get the children home,” he said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government was very concerned about the potential impact of the storm and called on people in the high-risk areas to stay at home.

A number of flights due to depart from Cork Airport on Tuesday morning were cancelled by Aer Lingus.

People with hospital appointments or scheduled procedures in affected counties are advised to ring to confirm they are going ahead before travelling. The HSE said Covid-19 testing and vaccination centres in status red counties would close for the duration of the storm. Those seeking PCR tests are advised to isolate for the 24-hour period.

‘Significant’ weather event

Met Éireann’s head of forecasting, Evelyn Cusack, said local authorities and emergency services were preparing for a “significant and severe weather event”.

For counties Cork, Kerry and Clare, winds in excess of 80km/h, with gusts in excess of 130km/h were expected to contribute to high waves, storm surges and flooding.

The storm was expected to reach the east coast soon after sunrise with southeasterly winds of up to 65km/h being predicted along with gusts of up to 130km/h.

Heavy rainfall is being predicted throughout Ireland. Those counties not covered by the status red or orange warnings were given status yellow warnings, with surface flooding expected during intense bouts of rain.

Ms Cusack said the storm that was forming in the middle of the Atlantic could be described as a “weather bomb” and it would bring the risk of “multiple hazards”.

There is a significant possibility of coastal flooding in all coastal areas. Car parks in Clontarf and Sandymount in Dublin are closed as are the flood gates along the river Dodder.

Car parks and some roads are to be closed in Galway city. A high spring tide in Cork at 7.30am is expected to add to the possibility of flooding in the city.

Met Éireann said Storm Barra should gradually clear Ireland late on Wednesday, with strong winds forecast to slowly ease and conditions to become more settled towards the end the week.