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Monday 17 December 2018

'Be vigilant': Flights cancelled, weather warnings issued and fears schools may not open as country braces itself for Storm Callum

  • Winds of up to 130kmh are set to batter the country
  • Storm could pose a 'risk to life and property', according to forecasters
  • Met Éireann issue a Status Orange warning for 13 counties ahead of its arrival tonight
  • 'We are advising people to avoid coastal areas during this event' - forecaster
  • Road Safety Authority urges drivers to exercise extreme caution
  • Extra emergency beds made available for rough sleepers
  • Galway City Council roll out their 'aquadam' this morning ahead of stormy conditions
The National Emergency Coordination Group chairman Sean Hogan. Photo: PA Wire
The National Emergency Coordination Group chairman Sean Hogan. Photo: PA Wire
Chart showing the impact Storm Callum will have on all Irish coastal regions at 7am tomorrow. Areas of high wind speeds are coloured green and orange. The area in red, well off the west coast, will have the strongest winds. image: Met Éireann
Pat Duane walks in wet conditions past sand bags in Clontarf, Dublin Pic credit: Damien Eagers / INM

Denise Calnan, Katherine Donnelly and Kevin Doyle

Met Eireann has urged people to "be vigilant" of weather warnings as the country braces itself for the arrival of Storm Callum.

The National Emergency Coordination Group convened this afternoon as fears grow over impact of Storm Callum.

Winds of up to 130kmh are set to batter the country as Storm Callum becomes the latest to reach Ireland - and could pose a "risk to life and property", according to forecasters.

Speaking today, forecasters said they are more than likely going to extend the weather warnings "as it will take a while for the winds to abate".

Coastal counties are being advised to batten down the hatches with Met Éireann issuing a Status Orange warning for 13 counties.

The forecaster has advised people to stay away from exposed coastal areas for the duration of the warning, which will come into place from 10pm tonight in places.

"An orange level warning is issued by Met Éireann for wind speeds with the capacity to produce dangerous, stormy conditions which may constitute a risk to life and property," the forecaster said.

Speaking to RTE's Six-one News this evening, forecaster Gerry Murphy also urged the public to "be vigilant" of the warnings that have been issued.

Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack said a combination of storm-force winds and high tides means there is a possibility of flooding along the east, south and west coast as far north as Donegal.

"It's not a major event in the east, we don't expect a major flooding event along the east coast," she told RTÉ Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme.

"The south-east winds will be up to gale-force 8-9 and gusting to storm-force 10 overnight.

"There is likely to be some over-topping but the Dublin City Council will have made precautions.

"Certainly, we will have some localised flooding in the east, but the biggest problems will be in the south and west," Ms Cusack continued.

"The first effects will be felt by Kerry and Cork and then will fan along the west coast.

"Tomorrow, it will move away quickly but will be a very windy day all day."

Ms Cusack said the emergency coordination group met today to "emphasis the safety measures for people".

"The worst of the winds will be during the night," the forecaster said.

"While it may be a pretty stormy day after dawn, there could be a lot of debris around, fallen trees, and with trees still in leaf there is more of a risk of trees being felled.

"And the possibility of power lines," she added.

The Department of Education has told schools, universities, institute of technology and all other education centres in areas affected by a status orange alert to remain vigilant and to “err on the side of caution”.

A meeting of the NECG was called amid growing fears over the impact of Storm Callum.

Decisions on whether to close a school because of severe weather is left to local school management.

Following today’s meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group , the Department said schools should keep themselves appraised of any hourly and other updates from Met Éireann, and from their local authorities, local radio, and an Garda Síochána.

“In all events, and if in any doubt, schools should err on the side of caution” the Department stated.

The statement added: "Schools are empowered to make closure decisions if, in their judgment in the interests of child safety, it is prudent to do so.

“Any and all decisions about school closures will be informed by, as well as prevailing and predicted conditions, any damage that might have been caused to school buildings overnight or at any time during the storm, and whether such damage - where it exists - might present a risk to child safety.”

The Department said this afternoon it would continue to monitor the situation as it progresses and will follow any advice from the National Emergency Coordination Group.

The Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA), representing about 90pc of primary schools, sent the Department’s advice to its members by email, as well as posting it on its app.

CPSMA General Secretary Séamus Mulconry described the advice as “solid and prudent”.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has contacted local authorities to ensure provisions are in place for the safety of rough sleepers.

Cold weather plans are also in place in main urban areas and extra beds have been made available, with outreach teams on the streets to engage with rough sleepers about the services available.

ESB Networks has said that a full emergency response is in place for storm Callum as some damage may occur to the network.

The public has been advised that if they come across fallen or damaged electricity wires not to touch them as they are live, instead please report them to the ESB by 1850 372.

They said that if there is a power outage "crews from ESB Networks will be dispatched to the affected areas without electricity supply, making the electricity network safe and assessing the damage, so that they can restore power as quickly and effectively as possible."

Real time information on power outages is also available at www.esbpowercheck.ie

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has urged drivers to exercise extreme caution over the coming days.

The RSA said that with the significant risk of coastal flooding, motorists should not attempt to drive through flooded areas.

They have advised drivers to keep an eye on local weather and traffic reports and the conditions in their area, and have also issued a number of guidelines to take into account until the storm passes, particularly to expect the unexpected:

:: Beware of objects being blown out on the road;

:: Watch out for falling/fallen debris on the road and vehicles veering across the road;

:: Control of a vehicle may be affected by strong cross winds. High-sided vehicles and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to strong winds;

:: Allow extra space between you and vulnerable road users such as cyclists and motorcyclists;

:: Drive with your headlights dipped at all times.

They also advise pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists to wear bright clothing with a reflective armband or belt.

There may also be chaos for those travelling further afield tomorrow.

Aer Lingus said in a statement on Twitter: "Aer Lingus: A number of flights on our European network have been cancelled on Friday 12 October due to #StormCallum. Please check flight status before travelling to the airport."

Ryanair has said that they don't expect their routes to be affected but said that passengers will be notified if that changes.

They tweeted: “Flights are scheduled to operate, if your flight is affected you will receive an email and a text message with all the details.”

A spokeswoman for Dublin Airport urged customer to check if their flight has been affected before they set off.

She said: "Passengers are advised to check their airline’s website for latest flight updates before coming to the airport tomorrow."

Anyone travelling through Cork Airport has also been advised to keep an eye out for updates.

They tweeted: “Currently we are not experiencing any weather related interruptions to flights but as the weather is expected to deteriorate later this evening please keep a watchful eye on weather updates later and your airline’s website.”

Irish Ferries cancelled the 8.55pm sailing from Dublin to Holyhead this evening "due to adverse weather conditions".

The ferry company has asked passengers to keep an eye out for sailing updates online before leaving home.

Bus Eireann has said that they will continue to review their service as Storm Callum progresses, but they advised passengers in Galway and Clare that there will be some minor changes on Route 350 and Route 401, more information on changes will be available here.

The Luas has said that all services are currently operating normally.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has advised the public to stay away from all National Parks, National Monuments or Nature Reserves whilst the Status Orange weather warning is in place.

They said in a statement: "Furthermore, while there is a Met Éireann Status Yellow (or above) wind weather warning in place, all woodland areas of Wicklow Mountains National Park and Woodland Nature Reserves in Wicklow, Wexford and Kilkenny that are managed/owned by NPWS will be closed to the public.

"For clarity, this includes Knocksink NNR and Glen of the Downs NNR.

"Visitors are also asked not to visit Killarney National Park, Cork and Kerry Nature Reserves - including Glengarriff Nature Reserve - for duration of the Status Orange warning in Cork and Kerry."

The following National Parks and Nature Reserves will be closed tomorrow:

•        Coole-Garryland Nature Reserve (Galway)

•        Derryclare Nature Reserve (Galway)

•        Diamond Hill (Galway)

•        Dromore Nature Reserve (Clare)

•        Ellis Wood Trail (Galway)

•        Knockma Wood (Galway)

•        Laughil Wood (Galway)

•        Oldhead Wood (Mayo)

•        Wild Nephin/Ballycroy National Park (Mayo)

Speaking this morning, Met Éireann meteorologist Harm Luijkz said tonight is to become "very windy as Storm Callum arrives".

"There will be storm force or gale force gusts, which can be severe or damaging.

"We have issued orange warnings for the coastal counties, and yellow warnings for the inland counties.

"There will be rain later tonight and, combined with winds and high tides, there is a risk of coastal flooding.

"We are advising people to avoid coastal areas during this event."

Cork and Kerry will be the first to be hit by the storm late tonight, with the other counties hit by the orange warning at risk from midnight.

Among these are Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Clare, Dublin, Louth, Wexford, Wicklow, Meath and Waterford.

The latter counties are not expected to feel the effects until 9am tomorrow.

In Galway, council crews are rolling out the city's aquadam ahead of potential high-tides of up to six metres.

Galway City Council 's Acting Director of Services Garry McMahon said the city are rolling out their rarely-used "aquadam" this morning ahead of the stormy conditions.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Mr McMahon said council workers will be calling individually to houses and businesses this morning that may be at risk of flooding. They will also be preparing sandbags at "a number of strategic points in the city centre".

"We've been tracking Storm Callum all week with the weather assessment team," Mr McMahon told the programme.

"We are aware that high spring tides generally have an effect on the city centre.

"With the advance notice from the OPW and Met Éireann, we've been tracking the storm and preparing."

Mr McMahon said the council were forced to close part of the Promenade Road in Salthill on Monday because of high tides, and he predicts they will do the same this evening.

"What's facing us overnight and on Friday morning is considerably more than that," he said.

"Fortunately we are practised now when it comes to weather events.

"We are currently installing the portable aquadam at the fish market, as people know it.

"It is a portable dam filled with water to anchor it. We are currently putting it in place this morning and we've installed flood gates at various points in Salthill.

"The most crucial time we're estimating is this time tomorrow morning, at 7.52am we are expecting a high tide of 5.2 metres," Mr McMahon continued.

"There is a predicted storm surge behind that of approximately 0.8 metres, which gives us up over six metres.

"There is certainly the possibility of overtopping, that combined with Storm Callum, which is due to hit the west coast of Ireland sometime in the middle of the night, if that combines then we are at significant risk of flooding, in particular in the city centre and that's why we are putting measures in place."

Mr McMahon said they believe the storm will move quickly, and they are ready for any quick changes in direction.

The individual weather warnings include:

  • Status Orange wind warning for Cork and Kerry with winds expected to hit 130km/h. It is valid from today at 10pm and ends at Friday at 9am.
  • Status Orange wind warning for Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Clare with winds expected to hit 130km/h. It is valid from 11pm tonight to Friday at 5pm.
  • Status Orange wind warning for Dublin, Louth, Wexford, Wicklow, Meath and Waterford with winds expected to hit 130km/h. It is valid from midnight tonight to Friday at 9am. 
  • Status Yellow wind warning for Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Limerick and Tipperary. It is valid from midnight tonight to Friday at 9am. 

Yellow warning

A Status Yellow warning has been put in place for the rest of the country.

Gusts will be between 100kmh and 130kmh during these periods.

"Along with a spell of heavy rain and high tides, there is a risk of coastal flooding and damage," said Met Éireann.

"The strongest winds associated with this event will occur during the night-time hours and Friday morning rush-hour commute.

"Even though the high winds will be the main concern, a spell of heavy and possibly thundery rain will occur too, making for an extremely windy and wet start, with squally conditions associated with the secondary cold front as it tracks north-eastwards up across the country."

Callum is the third named storm of the 2018/19 season.

The other two storms so far were Ali and Bronagh - both in September.

Irish Independent

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