Schools, colleges, and early education services in nine counties will close on Friday due to a “multi-hazard” weather event during Storm Eunice, the Government’s crisis management team has said.
The National Emergency Co-Ordination Group met on Thursday in preparation for the arrival of the storm system, which is forecast to bring damaging winds, sleet, rain and “blizzard-like” conditions from the early hours of Friday morning.
Status red wind warnings have been issued for Cork, Kerry, Clare and Waterford, while status orange weather warnings will be in effect for many other counties.
Following the meeting, the crisis management team announced schools and colleges in counties with red wind warnings and orange snow warnings – Cork, Kerry, Clare, Waterford, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Roscommon – will be closed for the full day on Friday.
However, a statement from the Department of Education said remote teaching and learning should commence “where possible”.
Schools in the orange zone are affected due to what has been described as a “multi-hazard” event, with a combined danger from high winds and snow.
The blanket closure does not apply to schools in counties with a status- orange wind warning, which are permitted to open, subject to local conditions.
Bus Éireann and other transport links, such as Local Link, will not operate while the status red warning is in place in Cork and Kerry, the National Transport Authority (NTA) said.
Bus Éireann also said it will not operate in Co Clare from 1am to 10am on Friday, and it will not operate in Co Waterford from 2am to 1pm.
Irish Rail will operate during the red warning, but the NTA advised that there could be delays and cancellations as a result of damage or flooding.
Elsewhere around the country, public transport will continue to operate, subject to local weather conditions.
Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, Keith Leonard, director of emergency management at the Department of Housing, said the storm will be a "high impact, multi-hazard" event.
“It will track quickly across the country, causing significant disruption with power outages and trees down in many areas,” he added.
The status red wind warnings will come into effect at 3am until 8am on Friday, with gusts in excess of 130km/h expected. There will also be some coastal flooding in these areas, Met Éireann said, especially at high tide, which is between 6 and 7am.
People in these counties are advised to stay indoors, due to the potential threat to life, debris and the risk of hazardous driving conditions.
A 12-hour status orange snow warning will come into effect at 3am for Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo and Roscommon, with heavy sleet and snow leading to “blizzard-like conditions” in parts.
A separate status orange wind warning has been put in place for Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow from 3am until 11am on Friday.
A status yellow wind, rain and snow warning will be in place for the country in general from 1am until 3pm.
Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Éireann, said the impact of the storm will be first felt just after midnight.
“There is possibly snow in all areas for a short time, but particularly heavy in the northwest, combined with likely gale force winds. It will be very variable from place to place,” she said.
"It's going to be a powerful storm zipping across Ireland, giving very strong winds absolutely everywhere. It will be a short-lived affair, but really very serious conditions countrywide."
She said it was not anticipated the status-orange snow warning would be extended to other counties.
Claire Quane, network operations manager at ESB Networks, said the utility has put its emergency response plans in place. She added that safety is of "critical importance" and members of the public should stay away from overhead powerlines that have fallen down.
The local government sector said it is prepared and ready to respond to the weather event, with each local authority having sufficient salt to grit roads. The civil defence is also on standby to assist, should the need arise.
The Road Safety Authority has called on those in red-warning areas to avoid all travel, those in orange-warning counties to consider postponing their journeys until the storm has abated and those in yellow-areas to take significant caution while travelling.
An Garda Síochána has urged members of the public to adhere to the weather warning in place in their locality.
In Northern Ireland, the UK Met Office issued a status yellow snow warning for Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry from 3am until 6pm on Friday, and a yellow wind warning for Antrim, Down and Derry from 7am until 6pm on Friday.
A rare red weather warning – the highest alert, meaning a high impact is very likely – has been issued by the Met Office for parts of southern Wales and southern England due to the combination of high tides, strong winds and storm surge expected.
A status red marine warning is also in place off the coast of the south of Ireland, with winds forecast to reach storm force 10 or violent storm force 11.
The storm is the second to hit the country this week, after storm Dudley brought strong winds of up to 100 km/h on Wednesday. Additional reporting: PA