Monday 25 June 2018

Storm Ophelia wreaks havoc: Three lives lost as weather phenomenon disrupts transport, water and electricity networks

  • Two men killed in separate incidents in Tipperary and Louth

  • Woman dies after tree 'pierced' car in which she was travelling in Waterford

  • All schools to close again on Tuesday - but colleges, creches may open

  • 'There are still dangers even if the storm is gone' - Taoiseach warns

  • Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus to resume services on Tuesday morning

  • Luas suspended due to damage

  • ESB Networks advise 330,000 customers are currently without power

  • Irish Water customers to be affected as power outages affect

  • Red weather warning nationwide until 3am Tuesday morning

  • More than 140 flights have now been cancelled at country's airports

  • Expert fears Ophelia could cause €1.5bn in damage

  • Facebook activates Safety Check feature or Irish users

Locals cut up and clear a fallen tree which had been blocking the road for most of the day on the Leixlip Road, near the Salmon Leap Inn this evening after Hurricane Opelia
Locals cut up and clear a fallen tree which had been blocking the road for most of the day on the Leixlip Road, near the Salmon Leap Inn this evening after Hurricane Opelia
Spray splashes over a car at the Point in Westport, Co. Mayo as Storm Ophelia batters the country. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus.
Locals cut up and clear a fallen tree which had been blocking the road for most of the day on the Leixlip Road, near the Salmon Leap Inn this evening after Hurrricane Opelia
Gardai, and Dundalk fire brigade attend the scene of an accident at Ravensdale outside Dundalk where a fallen tree struck a car during storm Ophelia. Picture: Arthur Carron
Gardai, and Dundalk fire brigade attend the scene of an accident at Ravensdale outside Dundalk where a fallen tree struck a car during storm Ophelia. Picture: Arthur Carron
A fallen tree struck at Thistle cross outside Dundalk during storm Ophelia. Picture: Arthur Carron
Storm scenes at Tramore Co. Waterford. Picture Dylan Vaughan
Hurricane Ophelia hitting Fenit in County Kerry. Photo: Mark Condren
16/9/17 Gardai, the coastguard and the RNLI helicopter at Blackrock in Co Louth where windsurfers were surfing during storm Ophelia. Picture: Arthur Carron
A fallen tree on Northbrook Road, Ranelagh, which was blown over during Storm Ophelia.
A fallen tree on Northbrook Road, Ranelagh, which was blown over during Storm Ophelia.
A fallen tree on Northbrook Road, Ranelagh, which was blown over during Storm Ophelia.
16/10/2017 Ophelia arriving in Galway. Quick walk on the prom ahead of the Hurricane . Photo:Andrew Downes
16-10-17 Storm scenes at Tramore Co. Waterford. Picture Dylan Vaughan
Provision 161017 Hurricane 'Ophelia'.... fallen tree Knocknaheeny, Cork City Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Ophelia Storm strikes in Baltimore, West Cork. Photo. Emma Jervis Photography
Hurricane 'Ophelia'.... fallen trees, N25 Cork City Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Walkers in Clontarf pictured this afternoon as Hurricane Ophelia hits the country..Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
A tree blocks the road at Killbritain Co Cork. Picture Denis Boyle
(Photo: Met Eireann)
A surfer is seen on rough water in the Atlantic in an area where the tide should be out in the County Clare town of Lahinch, Ireland October 15, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Pictured getting ready for hurricane Ophelia at Courtmacsherry Bay West Cork was Martin Galvin and his son Adam. Their seaside home at Lobster Cottage sits in Courtmacsherry Bay with County Cork expected to be among the worst effected counties. Picture Denis Boyle
Angus Bourke from Castlebar, Co. Mayo a member of Mayo Sailing Club preparaing his boat at Rosmoney, Westport, Co. Mayo before Storm Ophelia. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus.
Met Eireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack at the National Emergency Coordination Centre today. Photo: Mark Condren
Independent.ie Newsdesk

WEATHER phenomenon Ophelia has claimed the lives of three people in three separate incidents as the country begins to assess the extent of the damage wreaked by the historic storm so far.

Ex-Tropical Storm Ophelia is battering Ireland today, knocking down trees, whipping up 10-metre waves and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.

The fatalities were in Waterford, Tipperary and Louth - a woman in her 50s was killed when a tree struck the car she was travelling in, a man in his 30s died as he was working on a fallen tree with a chainsaw and, later in the afternoon, a man was killed when the car in which he was travelling in was struck by a tree.

About 330,000 homes and businesses are without electricity with more outages expected and almost 200 flights were cancelled from Ireland's two main airports at Dublin and Shannon.

The storm, downgraded from a hurricane overnight, is the worst to hit Ireland in half a century. It made landfall after 9.40am and the strongest winds recorded as a result of the storm thus far have been 191kmph at Fastnet Lighthouse.

The storm is currently hitting the northwest of the country and it is not expected to pass until midnight.

Schools, hospitals and public transport services were closed and the armed forces were sent to bolster flood defences, while damage included roofs blowing off public buildings and the partial collapse of a football stadium roof at Turner's Cross in Cork city.

The woman who died in Waterford is understood to be the first victim as ex-Hurricane Ophelia made landfall. She suffered fatal injuries when the car in which she was travelling was struck by a large tree.

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.
Forecast: Map showing predicted path of Ophelia

It is understood that a limb of the tree pierced the vehicle inflicting fatal injuries on the woman.

A garda spokeswoman told Independent.ie. "Gardaí are at scene of a fatal road traffic collision that occurred outside Aglish village on the R671 this morning at 11.40a.m.

"A female driver (50s) was fatally injured when the car she was driver was struck by a falling tree. 

"A female passenger (70s) was injured and has been removed to Waterford Regional Hospital with non life threatening injuries.  Emergencies services are still at scene."

The accident happened at Aglish, in west Waterford shortly after 11am as Storm Ophelia reached its height in the south with wind gusts in excess of 130km/h.

In a separate incident, a man in his 30s is believed to have been killed while working with a chainsaw while clearing a fallen tree in Tipperary at 12.30pm today.

The man was treated at the scene and rushed to hospital after the accident at Ballybrado.

It is understood he suffered a very serious injury in the incident while clearing a fallen tree that came down during Storm Ophelia.

"A man (early 30s) while in the course of clearing a fallen tree was seriously injured with a chain saw. He has since passed away and his body has been removed to Clonmel Hospital," a garda spokesman said.

"Gardaí continue to advise all persons to stay indoors and not to venture out. Do not put your life or the lives of the Emergency Services at risk by travelling unless absolutely necessary."

Gardaí also confirmed the third fatality, writing; "Gardaí and Emergency Services are currently at the scene of a serious traffic collision on a local road in Ravensdale, Dundalk.

"The alarm was raised at approximately 2.45pm when a car was struck by a tree. It is understood a male occupant of the car has been fatally injured.

"A recovery operation is currently underway and no further details are available at this time."

The man's age has not yet been confimed.

Around 330,000 people are currently without power as the ESB has predicted up to 10pc of those affected may be without supply for ten days.

Meanwhile,  Irish Water reported several instances of supplies being affected as power cuts interrupted its network.

The southern areas were worst hit with limited storage and burst mains causing problems and staff not beginning repair work until the storm had completey passed.

The utility warned some areas should expect restricted supply until 7am on Wednesday.

Speaking this evening Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the "full resources of the state" will be deployed for the clean-up action.

"The full resources of the state will be deployed for the clean up operation. Crews from UK and Northern Ireland will be in to help," he said on RTE Six One news.

"Defence Forces can be deployed as needed. I would like to thank emergency services, HSE, volunteers, for their work today.

"We have had three tragic deaths but the most important thing is that no-one else else losses their life. There are still dangers even if the storm is gone.

"I am satisfied with the response to date and when Met Eireann advised a red alert nationwide that response was stepped up."

On Monday evening, Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail suspended all services until Tuesday morning.

In a statement this evening Luas operators confirmed that services would still be affected tomorrow morning.

The statement reads: "There will be no Red or Green Line services on Tuesday morning October 17th 2017.

"Earlier today an incident occurred in the Luas Depot, Red Cow, Clondalkin.

"A technical room was damaged because of Hurricane Ophelia.

"It will take time to investigate the damage caused and time to repair. We are not able to give an estimate in relation to the time it will take.

"Luas will therefore not operate a service on Tuesday morning October 17th 2017

"Luas will inform customers, media and the public about Luas services post a 12 noon meeting tomorrow.

"Luas has updated the NECC on this matter.

"Customers are advised to follow media reports and to check Luas.ie, follow twitter@luas

"Luas customer care is open 7am – 7pm."

All schools in the country are to remain closed on Tuesday.

However, the situation for creches and third level institutions is not so clear - with the final decision being left to the individual faciility.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said the decision on schools was made in the "interests of safety".

"It is recognised that the decision to close schools will have a major impact on families and on the workforce," he said.

"However, this decision has been taken in the interests of safety for children and to provide clarity for everyone concerned."

"Re making up school days, my department will take stock and issue guidance as they have done in the past having consulted with school management," he added.

Tonight, Minister for Health Simon Harris has issued a statement advising people on service resuming at hospitals across the country.

"Today has been a difficult and challenging one for our health services and I want to thank all of those who came to work today and went above and beyond.

"We do expect some continued disruption over the coming days but we can expect a gradual return to normal services and that is now our priority.

"The message for tomorrow is if you have an appointment turn up as planned, unless you hear otherwise. In the event of a cancellation, people will be contacted.

"People can expect some delays in their appointments and discharges from hospitals over the next few days.

"The main focus of our community services tomorrow and in the coming days will be dealing with the most vulnerable patients.

"Following the significant disruption today, it is expected that both Emergency Departments and GP will be very busy tomorrow, so I would ask if you don't have an appointment and if it's not urgent please don't attend your GP or hospital."

Meanwhile, decisions on whether third-level colleges, creches and montessori schools will open tomorrow will be left to the institutions and facilities themselves

It is expected that many third level institutions will open on Tuesday, University of Limerick and GMIT are due to re-open. The Mountbellew campus of GMIT will remain closed however.

Maynooth University will not be re-opening.

But childcare facilities that decide to remain closed on Tuesday as a result of the storm will still be entitled to claim State funding for the day.

Crèche owners have been urged to take no chances as "safety must be the top consideration".

Meanwhile, the whole of Ireland was set to experience "violent" winds from the weather phenomenon, with each part of the country bearing the brunt of the storm for approximately three hours, a forecaster warned earlier on Monday

Facebook Ireland has activated its 'check-in' feature in response to the storm. It allows people to mark themselves as "safe" and there is also a feature for people offering or requesting support from their local community.

People have been using the platform to offer to check on people in their area on behalf of concerned friends or loved ones or offering other help, such as sterilising baby bottles for people with no electricity.

Winds

Hurricane strength winds of 190km per hour were recorded on Fastnet Rock.

Already 330,000 customers are without electricity according to the ESB, with that figure expected to rise towards 500,000 by the end of the day.

ESB said "5-10pc" of customers will experience power cuts for up to 10 days in most extreme cases. Most people can expect to be without power for a day or two, ESB indicated.

Staff and "every available contractor" will be working on restoring ESB network tomorrow Minister Denis Naughten has told RTE Radio One's Drivetime.

Minister Naughten said there is an urgency around planning for extreme weather events, as he warned that the frequency of such events will increase.

"We are going to see weather events like this happen much more frequently than we ever would have before," he said.

"We're going to see more of these storms... and we have to prepare for that."

The south and south east of the country has been hit with winds of up to 150kmph since this morning, and conditions are expected to peak between Dublin and Galway from 5pm until 7pm.

In a statement Bus Éireann said they "plan to operate a full schedule of services tomorrow (October 17) from 0500 hours, with the exception of services provided under the School Transport Scheme.

"This is due to the decision of the Department of Education and Skills that all schools should remain closed tomorrow.

"This resumption includes all Bus Éireann services, the Expressway network, Eurolines and GoBÉ services.

"However, we expect disruption to some services in areas where the worst damage has been caused by the storm.

"This may include diversions, delays or cancellations. We will be guided by the advice of local authorities or other bodies regarding roads that are affected.

"We will be providing updates on www.buseireann.ie and on Twitter and Facebook @buseireann and to local, regional and national media – as soon as the position becomes clearer.

The Defence Force also currently have 470 soldiers on standby who are available to assist in any operations today and tomorrow.

Inspector Conor O'Murchu of An Garda Siochana confirmed that there have so far been three fatalities as a direct result of Hurricane Ophelia.

"As the storm moves away we advise people to continue to exercise extreme caution. It can appear to be abating, but bare in mind there will be fallen powers lines and trees", Insp O'Murchu said.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael Finn, who oversees the Garda Traffic Unit, warned road users not be to make non-essential journeys with gusts already reaching 150kmph in the south-east.

The senior officer has also asked people not to be led "into a false sense of security" in areas not yet effected, warning: "be prepared".

"Our appeal to the public this morning is, if your journey is not absolutely essential, do not go on the road. We know that this storm has arrived. I've been speaking to my colleagues in the south west this morning. We have trees down in Co Kerry, and trees and power lines down in West Cork. Parts of Clonakilty are out because of the storm damage and this is just the start of the storm.

"My appeal particularly to motorcyclists, cyclists and drivers of high sided vehicles. You are particularly vulnerable out there in this storm. Unless your journey is absolutely essential, we don't want you to put yourselves or indeed emergency services at risk by being out on the road," Mr Finn said.

"We want to appeal also to people in the coastal areas. While it might be attractive to go and see some of the sites, you're putting yourself at serious risk and putting emergency services at risky going tot hose

"Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by the calm before the storm, because we know from our colleagues down in the south west that we have gusts of up to 150kmph, right now on our coats, be prepared.

"If you're out there now, things can deteriorate very quickly because once those storms comes up, and its travelling fast and the winds are rising, you are vulnerable on the roads, so unless that journey is absolutely essential, don't travel today," the senior officer added.

 

Although the storm is expected to  pass through Ireland by early Tuesday, the trail of destruction in its wake may cause continuing difficulties,  in some areas , at least.

Employers have also been urged to give their employees guidance how working arrangements have been affected in light of the national red warning.

The issue of red level severe weather warnings implies that recipients take action to protect themselves and/or their properties; this could be by moving their families out of the danger zone temporarily; by staying indoors; or by other specific actions aimed at mitigating the effects of the weather conditions. It is the highest level of alert Met Eireann can issue.

The National Emergency Coordination Group are pleading with people to stay safe, indoors if they can and not to take any unnecessary risks.

  • How is Ophelia affecting you today? Send your comments and pictures to contact@independent.ie, if it is safe to do so.

Hurricane Ophelia could cause almost €1.5bn worth of damage to Ireland, according to a leading disaster analyst.

It had previously been estimated to cost around €676m in damage, but this figure has been more than doubled due to the storm's intensity holding up over night.

Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller with the Enki Research Centre in Savannah, Georgia, said that the storm is comparable to Hurricane Debbie which wrecked havoc when it struck in 1961.

"People with longer memories will remember Hurricane Debbie in 1961 which at the time caused $41m (€34m) worth of damage. It’s a baseline and used as a reference.

"If that same storm hit today, it would cost close to $900m (€761m) in damage, with inflation, growth and development," he said.

"Overnight/this morning Ophelia took a jog to the left and held a bit more intensity than forecast yesterday, so the impacts to Ireland will potentially be a bit worse than had the storm stayed on the forecast course. The current estimate is for $1.8 Billion (€ 1.5 Billion) in impacts, about half of that as physical damage and the rest as economic disruptions to government, business, etc," he told Independent.ie.

In addition to the potential damage Hurricane Ophelia could cause to Ireland, it is estimated that the massive storm will cost the UK in the region of $300m (€253m) worth of damage. The estimated costs can vary, depending on which unit of model is used to measure the hurricane.

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