Thursday 22 February 2018

Hurricane Ophelia: What you need to know to stay safe

Latest guidance from the National Hurricane Centre.
Bear in mind times shown are AST so add 5 hours.
Latest guidance from the National Hurricane Centre. Bear in mind times shown are AST so add 5 hours.

Mary McDonnell

AS Hurricane Ophelia makes landfall today, here’s what you need to know about it, and how to stay safe during it:

How bad is the storm?

Met Éireann has confirmed that Ophelia is the most powerful hurricane to have ever been this far east in the Atlantic on record.

Hurricane Ophelia strengthened into a rare category 3 hurricane near the Azores islands and was the sixth major hurricane of the Atlantic season.

Met Eireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack gives a briefing an Ophelia. Photo: Mark Condren
Met Eireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack gives a briefing an Ophelia. Photo: Mark Condren

When it hits Ireland, however, it’s expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm.

What does this mean?

At this stage, wind speeds are expected to reach 80km/hr with gusts over 130km/hr. However, they may be higher.

Heavy rain of up 100mm and storm surges may cause flooding in some areas. There is also predicted structural damage.

Emergency response teams are hopeful the country will escape the worst.  Met Eireann will be tracking the storm over the next 24 hours.

When and where will it make landfall?

Met Éireann currently expects the eye of the storm to hit the south coast and then track up along the west coast.

The coastal counties from Wexford and Waterford around as far as Galway and Mayo will experience the highest winds.

The storm is expected to hit our shores tomorrow with a severe red weather alert, its highest warning, in place from 9am until 3am early Tuesday morning for Wexford, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.

What is a Status Red warning?

The issue of red level severe weather warnings is a comparatively rare event and implies that people take action to protect themselves and/or their properties.

This could be by moving their families out of the danger zone temporarily, staying indoors, or by other specific actions aimed at mitigating the effects of the weather conditions.

Give an example of some precautions that could be taken?

Homeowners are advised to protect their property and sandbags have been distributed in some areas.

AA spokesman Conor Faughnan had this advice for keeping your home safe before the storm hits:

*Clear drains which ca block quickly in heavy rain and cause flooding indoors.

*Clear any furniture or loose items from the garden to prevent loose debris from smashing windows.

*Ensure windows are properly closed and secure during the storm.

*If possible, have someone home to monitor alarm systems which AA expects to go off during high winds.

*Sweep away loose leaves in the garden to prevent drains from blocking.

*For motorists they advise avoiding travel where possible in affected areas and to drive with caution and watch out for fallen debris when on the road.

The Irish Coast Guard has strongly advised the public to avoid coastal areas until the storm passes and to call 112 if you spot someone in trouble.

Avoid cliffs, piers, harbour walls, beaches and promenades.

"With the onset of Hurricane Ophelia the Coast Guard is requesting members of the public to avoid any visits or walks to coastal or cliff areas," it said. 

"The storm is expected to be at its most severe from Monday morning with SW and West coast areas expected to experience the brunt of the storm.

"The Coast Guard is reminding the public of the dangers of visiting exposed coastal areas and to adhere to the core message of; Stay Back, Stay High, Stay Dry."

Plan ahead:

Dublin Airport has advised all passengers to check with their airline before flying into Dublin Airport tomorrow. 

Both Shannon and Cork Airports are bracing themselves for potential flight delays and cancellations.

Bus Eireann has cancelled school bus services and the Department of Education has advised schools to remain closed.

ESB is providing real time information on power outages here

AA Roadwatch has advised motorists to "drive with extreme care".

Wind-blown debris is likely to be a problem on  secondary roads in particular. Keep in mind that high-sided vehicles are  especially vulnerable on open roads.

Is this a taste of things to come?

Environment Minister Denis Naughten yesterday warned that the country should prepare for more "very severe" storms which will "ravage through people's homes".

"You are going to see an increased frequency of extreme weather conditions like the 100-year floods happening every five or six years," Mr Naughten told the Sunday Independent.

More to follow

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