Concern for property overtaken by fears for loved ones
Published 13/02/2014 | 02:30
HOUSEHOLDERS across the south knew they were in serious trouble from 9am when the electricity began to fail and then the roof tiles began to shake in the 160kph winds.
What started out at 7am as powerful gusts quickly became much more forceful by 10am where concern over property damage was overtaken by fear for the safety of loved ones.
When the power started failing as trees began falling, the terrifying scale of the Atlantic storm's fury became apparent.
The south-west hadn't seen a storm of this violence for 25 years.
Across Cork and Kerry yesterday, parents rushed to schools to collect children as radio reports of damaged roofs, fallen trees and safety alerts added to the palpable sense of fear.
Roof tiles and slates were ripped from schools in Cobh, Cork, Fermoy, Tralee and Abbeydorney.
While the gardai and AA Roadwatch urged people to undertake essential journeys only, parents were desperate to get their children safely home.
Two universities declared emergencies and ordered all staff and students to stay indoors.
Shoppers were ordered off the streets of Tralee as slates were ripped off buildings by the gales.
Workers wondered how they would make it back to their homes – and when they got there many found themselves in darkness.
Over 80,000 homes and businesses in Cork and Kerry alone were left without power and at least a dozen cars were damaged by fallen trees or flying debris.
One woman, Mags Donohue, spoke of her fear as she had to try three different roads to get home in north Cork, with two blocked by fallen trees.
"It was the most frightening experience I have ever had in a car," she said.
The wind force was so violent – raging to Storm Force 11 – that ESB repair crews couldn't commence operations until last evening when winds abated.
Iarnrod Eireann warned Cork and Kerry commuters to expect disruption and commuters faced further misery as fallen trees on roads meant it was impossible to provide bus transfers between Mallow and Cork and Mallow and Tralee.
In Cork city, businessman Tony Lyons had a miraculous escape when a tree crushed his parked car on Pope's Quay.
The dramatic scenes of destruction were repeated across Cobh/Cork harbour, Fermoy, Mallow and Charleville in north Cork as well as Ardfert, Tralee and Killarney in Kerry.
On the Cork-Mallow Road, a HSE ambulance was involved in a collision which is being blamed on the atrocious weather conditions.
Luckily it was not carrying a patient and no one was injured.
Flights were cancelled or diverted at Cork, Shannon and Kerry airports.
The highest wind gusts were recorded at Shannon in Clare and Baltimore in west Cork at 160kph, where the storm fell just 10kph short of being classified as a full hurricane.
University College Cork (UCC) issued an emergency alert with all students asked to remain within lecture halls and buildings.
Gardai admitted families faced nightmare journeys with over 40 reported incidents of trees blocking roads in Cork alone.
Two missing person searches, one in Cork city and one in west Cork, were both suspended amid safety concerns for search personnel given the extreme weather conditions.
Both will resume today if weather conditions are deemed safe for searchers.