independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Met Eireann warns of another red alert

  • Storm claimed life of nursing home care assistant Aisling Maguire
  • Snow reported on M50, Tipperary, Galway, Mountmellick, Sligo and Galway
  • 7000 homes in West still without power
  • ESB crews worked throughout night to bring power back
  • In Galway, Salthill carpark under three feet of water
  • Warning more storms are on the way, some violent
  • HSE investigating canope collapse at Kent Station in Cork

    Aisling Maguire: the young woman who died

    Met Eireann is predicting heavy showers with sleet and snow tonight, while also warning of another code red after the weekend.

    Showers will gradually become confined to western and northwestern coastal counties overnight.

    And temperatures will drop to lows of 0 to 2 degrees overnight, and Met Eireann is warning drivers of frost with icy stretches on untreated surfaces.

    Met Eireann said a red alert may be warranted next week as forecasters are predicting more high winds.

    Forecaster John Eagleton said if the centre of the depression tracks in over the country on Monday, another red alert may be issued.

    “If it was to track in over Donegal, say, we could be another red alert on Monday but at this stage there is no sign of that happening,” John Eagleton told the Irish Independent.

    Yesterday a status orange turned into a red alert only hours before the storm hit. This can happen when a depression deepens more than what is indicated in the models, according to the forecaster.

    The storm-battered platform at Kent Station. Inset: victim Aisling Maguire

    A killer storm battered the country yesterday and today with winds of 150kph, leaving a trail of destruction that claimed the life of a young woman.

    Aisling Maguire (23) died after a tree smashed on to her car on the road near Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

    Dozens more were lucky to escape disaster as a train pulled out of Cork's busy Kent Station seconds before the canopy above the platform collapsed.

    Today, a weather warning remains in place for Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Cavan, Monaghan and certain other areas in Munster and Leinster.

    In those areas, southwest winds with reach between 45 to 55km/h.

    Some 6,000 homes were still without power today, ESB confirmed.

    Electricity outages are spread in pockets throughout the country, and weather permitting, aim to have power restored by mid afternoon. 

    According to Met Eireann, It is implicit that yellow level weather alerts are for weather conditions that do not pose an immediate threat to the general population, but only to those exposed to risk by nature of their location and/or activity.

    Some areas of the country have experience heavy snow overnight in the midlands, Tipperary and Mayo.

    The M7 Dublin/Limerick road is extremely slippery between J23 Moneygall and J27 Birdhill following a night of snow.

    This morning, ESB said they had 300 different faults during yesterday evening and night, leading to around 22,000 households suffering power cuts.

    The worst hit areas were in Donegal and Galway, according to ESB's head of customer services Mike Fitzgerald.

    Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Mr Fitzgerald said crews were working overnight to return electricity to as many homes as possible.

    "It wouldn't be unusual to have bad weather at this time of year. We’ll take care of our customers, whatever the weather.

    "We’ll assess the situation at daybreak and restore supply as quickly as possible."

    Gale-force winds, torrential downpours, sleet, hail and even mini-tornadoes caused havoc, with the West hit particularly hard.

    Yesterday afternoon Met Eireann issued a red alert -- its highest level weather warning -- for the worst storm to hit in several years.

    Elsewhere around the country:

    * 22,000 households -- mainly in the West -- suffered power cuts as a result of the storms.

    * In Co Galway, a Salthill carpark was under three feet of water, destroying a number of parked vehicles.

    * Last night there were warnings that more storms are on the way, some of which could be even more violent.

    The devastating weather claimed Ms Maguire's life in the accident as she drove home to Moyvore, close to Mullingar, at about 4pm.

    She worked as a care assistant in Newbrook Lodge nursing home in her hometown, and her colleagues were devastated by the news.

    Close friend Spike McCormack, said she was loved by all in Moyvore, and had great passion for everything she did, from GAA to her work in the local nursing home.

    Her family including father Gerry, a retired garda, mother Geraldine, and two brothers were being comforted by friends.

    Fr Philip Smith, the Ballymore parish priest, said: "I'm only after hearing the news this evening. I was absolutely shocked, it's terrible."

    At Kent Station in Cork city, where a roof canopy was destroyed, emergency personnel said it was a miracle no one was seriously injured.

    A train pulled away from the platform just 35 seconds before tornado-like winds caused a Victorian-era roof to collapse.

    The canopy, beside platforms one and two, collapsed at 3pm as a storm swept out of nowhere from the River Lee quays over the nearby rail station.

    WARNINGS

    Irish Ferries cancelled its fast ferry service from Dublin and there was disruption at Dublin airport.

    The Irish Coast Guard also issued warnings.

    Met Eireann issued three separate weather warnings -- red, orange and yellow -- for different regions during the course of the day.

    The 3pm Cork-Cobh train, with 40 people on board, had left the platform just 35 seconds earlier.

    Witnesses described seeing "a wind like a tornado" rip apart the structure.

    Mick Sullivan, who was planning to travel to Dublin for a Christmas party, said he heard what sounded like a rumble as he was enjoying a drink but thought it was only the wind howling.

    "The next thing I knew I saw people running and shouting that the roof had caved in. I didn't know what the hell was going on," he said.

    Student Alan Dineen said he was "totally shocked" by the destruction as he stood on the platform with two friends.

    One of his friends, a woman in her early 20s, suffered minor injuries as the rear section of the roof was lifted off by the winds, causing over 100 metres of the canopy to collapse.

    Alan and his other friend were uninjured but treated at the scene for shock

    "The winds came out of nowhere . . . it was like a tornado. There were bins flying everywhere. The next thing there was glass breaking and a terrible roaring noise.

    "I am still a bit in shock to be honest about it," he said.

    The station closed in the aftermath of the incident but had partially reopened yesterday evening and was expected to be back to normal this morning.

    Meanwhile, in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, what was described as a "tornado" ripped a roof from a three-storey building before dumping it and a steel garden shed on to the main street.

    Five people were injured by falling debris, including a couple trapped in a car. They were taken to University Hospital Limerick for treatment.

    "It suddenly blew up with torrential rain at about 3pm and about half an hour later it had all subsided," said Garda Marie Twohig.

    It is thought wind speeds reached an incredible 320kph in an instant due to a "sting jet" -- or a blast of wind travelling directly downward.

    In Salthill, Co Galway, there were dramatic scenes as dozens of vehicles were swamped by more than four feet of water.

    High tides and storm conditions combined to cause massive flooding that lasted more than two hours.

    At the Toft Car Park, some desperate owners waded towards their vehicles, fearing further floods at high tide this morning.

    The council warned that there remained a danger of further floods up to Saturday evening.

    The ESB said that major power outages were caused by more than 250 separate faults on the network.

    These were concentrated in the midlands, west and south of the country, with some 1,500 homes around Moate in Co Westmeath without power. The 'red' alert was issued for Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo and Sligo where average wind speeds were 70-90kph and gusts reached between 120kph and 150kph. Climatologist Professor John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth warned: "There will be another (storm) in a couple days time which may be worse."

    Met Eireann's Pat Clarke said the outlook for the next few days was "very inclement and changeable", adding it was expected to be "very wet and windy" tomorrow. "There will be a lot of unsettled and changeable weather between now and Christmas.

     

    Cormac Murphy, Ralph Riegel, Emma Jane Hade and Sam Griffin

    Irish Independent

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