Sunday 20 October 2019

Explainer: What we know so far about Storm Lorenzo as it hurtles towards Ireland


Hurricane Lorenzo's latest predicted path across Ireland. Photo: Met Éireann
Hurricane Lorenzo's latest predicted path across Ireland. Photo: Met Éireann
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

STORM Lorenzo is currently bringing gale force winds to the Azores and is expected to land on Irish shores by Thursday afternoon.

The former category-5 hurricane, predicted to transition to a tropical storm within the next 24 hours, will bring storm surges and the potential for gusts of 100km/h winds to hit Ireland when it lands.

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Here's what we know so far about the weather event:

Will Hurricane Lorenzo hit Ireland?

While Lorenzo is currently maintaining a hurricane status, it will likely lose that status and become a storm before it hits ireland.

"As Lorenzo passes over colder waters and engages with the polar Jetstream it will lose its tropical characteristics and no longer be a hurricane, but it will be a dangerous Atlantic Storm," a Met Éireann spokesperson said.

When will the storm land?

Met Éireann have said that the effects of the weather event will begin to be felt across Ireland from midday Thursday, peaking late Thursday evening and Thursday night, easing Friday morning.

The national forecaster are expecting the weather event to accelerate north-eastwards across the mid-Atlantic during Wednesday, engaging with the polar jet-stream on Wednesday night approximately 1000 kilometres southwest of Ireland.

It will then continue to accelerate north-eastwards, with its centre approaching the west of Ireland during Thursday. Lorenzo will then likely make a right turn, tracking across Ireland on Thursday night whilst it begins to gradually weaken.

"The exact track Lorenzo will take over Ireland is still subject to change," forecasters said. "The most severe winds associated with Lorenzo are likely in Atlantic coastal parts on the southern flank of the storm, however strong winds are possible in all areas."

Are there weather warnings in place?

A Status Orange wind warning has been issued for six counties on the west coast.

The warning is in place for counties Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Limerick from 6pm on Thursday until 3am on Friday.

Winds will reach mean speeds of 65 to 80km/h with gusts generally of 100 to 130km/h, Met Éireann said.

A status Yellow wind warning is in place for the rest of Ireland from 9am on Thursday until 6am on Friday, with the national forecaster warning that the 100km/h gusts will have "some disruptive impacts".

There is also a Status Yellow rainfall warning in place nationwide from 9am Thursday until 9am Friday, with up to 50mm of rainfall expected in the west and northwest.

The UK Met Office has issued a Yellow wind warning for parts of Northern Ireland, including Derry and Newry, from 3pm until 10pm on Thursday.

What sort of damage will the storm bring?

Met Éireann have warned that Storm Lorenzo will bring heavy rain, and with falling leaves blocking drains and gullies, some surface flooding is possible.

"Some coastal inundations and damage will occur," they added.

Mr Mahon said that fallen trees are a concern for many local authorities, which may "exacerbate flooding potential".

"We're at the time of the year where the trees are still in leaf, and a tree down as a result of a storm or hurricane, at this time of the year can have a lot more of an impact on flooding than it might do during the winter when we traditionally experience storms," he said.

"This is a very fast moving weather event, it's moving at an incredible pace towards Ireland. Between ourselves, local authorities and land owners, we all have an obligation to manage and mind the trees and deal with dangerous trees.

"That's not to say every tree will be safe against the storm that's coming. It's inevitable that trees will fall, they'll have an impact on power lines, possibly block roads, and they could contribute to drainage issues and cause unintended flooding as a result of that."

While forecasters said that river levels are currently elevated across the country and the rainfall may lead to river flooding, especially in parts of the midlands and west.

"River levels will continue to rise after Storm Lorenzo has passed," Met Éireann said.

Does that mean schools will be closed?

The Department of Education has told schools and other educational institutions along the west coast to "err on the side of caution" in the  face of approaching Storm Lorenzo.

A decision to close is up to individual schools or other educational institutions, the Department has confirmed.

With a Status Orange storm warning in palace from 6pm Thursday until 3am Friday, in Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Limerick, the Department said all education centres should remain vigilant.

"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 safety.

"Similarly other education settings should make closure decisions based on those considerations."

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

Will flights be cancelled?

While there is no confirmation of cancelled flights yet, holiday-goers have been warned that there may be some disruption.

Cork Airport warned travellers to check flight updates with their airline today and tomorrow.

"Winds may gust 35-45knots which could lead to flight disruptions," a spokesperson said.

How prepared are local authorities?

Irish emergency services, local authorities and utility providers have all been briefed to be prepared for Lorenzo.

Gardaí, the ESB, Irish councils, fire brigades, Health Service Executive and the Irish Coast Guard are all on standby for potential storm damage.

Paddy Mahon, local government representative with the NECG said that authorities across the country have been preparing response plans since the start of the week.

"Since Monday when it became a possibility, councils would have been examining the weather profile, examining the potential for this to move from possible to probable," Mr Mahon told RTÉ Morning Ireland.

"Each local authority will have a severe weather assessment team so those, particularly across the western seaboard, would have been convening since Monday and in other parts of the country as well. I'm convinced that all local authorities will be convening their teams today, just to assess how this might impact on their particular region."

How can I protect my home from storm damage?

Homeowners have been advised to prepare and protect their properties so as to limit any damage.

Insurance group Insuremyhouse.ie have released their top tips for the public to minimise any devastation from the storm;

  • "Check your external walls and windows to ensure they are adequately water resistant," a spokesperson said. "There are various different products, sealants and varnishes available to waterproof any areas of concern.
  • "In the event of a flood warning in your area, it might be worth investing in sandbags and/or flood barriers to protect your property, particularly if you live in a flood risk area.
  • "During more risky periods keep personal and expensive items as high above ground level as possible, and ensure you know where water, gas and electricity mains are, should you need to turn them off or on at any stage."

Read more: Hurricane Lorenzo 'moving at an incredible pace towards Ireland', threatening 'ferocious' wave surges and 100kmh winds

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