One killed and two injured as Storm Rachel swept across the country
One man was killed and two school girls were injured when storm force winds swept across the country.
Police confirmed a motorist was killed when a tree fell on his van on the Hillsborough Road in Lisburn at 11.30am this morning.
Elsewhere two schoolgirls were injured after they were blown into the path of a bus by strong winds.
The teenagers were walking in Belfast city centre when the accident happened and were treated at the scene.
Storm force gales battered parts of the country throughout much of the day, with Storm Rachel - which had been forecast as a red alert - tearing down trees as well as electricity power lines and poles.
ESB Networks say around 3,100 homes are currently without power, mostly in Donegal, Monaghan and pockets of of Galway and Wexford.
Winds are starting to increase in the NW, with Galway and Donegal recording Red Level winds once again. pic.twitter.com/HvSKDqwYtb— Met Éireann (@MetEireann) January 15, 2015
A spokesman for Met Eireann has admitted they sometimes "overdo it" in order to err of the side of caution when it comes to issuing coded weather warnings.
Forecasters also downgraded its weather warning to a yellow, forecasting winds of mean speeds 50 to 60km/h, with gusts to between 90 and 100 km, for Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Dublin, Louth and Meath.
Showers will also become less frequent, but temperatures will drop to between -2 to +2 degrees C, leading to widespread frost and icy stretches.
Motorists are warned to take extra care on the roads, while air passengers due to fly are told to contact carriers after 38 flights were cancelled at Dublin Airport and 20 others diverted.
The storm is NOT finished Met.ie has a RED ALERT in place. We are assessing damage &planning restoration any updates http://t.co/wVVh78u1C7— ESB Networks (@ESBNetworks) January 15, 2015
Met Eireann's comments came after people in some parts of the country -- who woke up this morning to normal conditions for this time of year -- flooded phone lines at local radio stations, demanding to know why Met Eireann had put all western coastal counties on a "Red status" weather alert the previous day.
All road users esp Hi sided vehicles, cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians take extra care especially near waterways. See & be seen, Bsafe— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) January 15, 2015
The Red status warning led to the closure of more than 300 schools across the country. The Department of Education, acting on the weather warning, advised schools to consider closing as a precautionary measure.
However, this morning, Limerick City and County Council issued a statement that, "no significant incidents have been reported as a result of Storm Rachel", and that "no emergency calls were received".
"We err on the side of caution. Sometimes we overdo it. That's just the way it is. You have to err on the side of caution with these matters," Pat Clarke, meteorologist with Met Éireann, told Live 95FM this morning.
Mr Clarke said: "Well, when you are dealing with life and limb, and when your (weather) models are telling you the winds are going to be a certain value, you're better off to err on the side of caution, than take the opposite view."
"So, based on the information we had last night, we extended the 'Red' warning from the North and Northwest further down the West coast, to include Munster counties. And, parts of Cork and Kerry did get some red values last night, but Limerick city didn't."
Thousands of people across the country were left without electricity following a night of strong and gale force winds with gusts of up to 150km/h.
ESB report that Storm Rachel damaged electricity infrastructure in the North West, West and South of the country.
As one stage the number of homes without power was over 17,000.
Unfortunately due to the numbers of faults in the North West, it is likely that approximately 400-500 customers, currently without supply, will not have supply restored tonight. These customers are mainly located in the following areas:
· Derrybeg (Annagry, Kincasslagh, Crolly)
· Falcarragh (Knockfola, Bloodyforeland)
· Ballina (Knockmore, Gortenamuck)
· Belmullet/Erris (Carnhill, Pullathomas, Falmore, Blacksod)
“Conditions on the ground are challenging with strong winds and rain hampering restoration and making conditions unsafe for our technicians,” a spokesperson for ESB Networks said this morning.
“From early this morning, when it is safe to do so, ESB Networks crews will be out making the electricity network safe and assessing the damage, so that crews can be deployed to restore power as quickly and effectively as possible.”
Flights last night between Cork and London Heathrow were also cancelled as the weather disruption began.
In Dublin, fire crews are moving a tree which fell on the road between Skerries and Lusk, narrowly missing a passing motorist.
Flooding was also reported in parts of Donegal and Galway and dozens of felled tress hampered driving conditions on roads across the country.
Garda Inspector John Ferris warned "thrill-seekers" not to venture near the coast.
"We would appeal to thrill-seekers going to cliffs and coastal paths to look at the beauty of nature. We have encountered cases where people have brought kids to these areas, which is completely irresponsible."
Yesterday saw chaos across western counties after heavy snow falls.
Read more: Counties braced for Storm Rachel
More than 300 schools were closed due to poor road conditions and the cancellation of bus services.
The worst of the bad weather hit between 6am and 9am this morning but weather warnings are to remain in place until 5pm this evening.
Schools have been urged to “err on the side of caution” and remain closed if there are concerns about the ferocity of the storm.
Weather warning updates
The Red alert for Limerick has since been downgraded to Orange with Southwest winds expected to reach mean speeds of 65 to 80 km/h with gusts of 110 to 120 km/h at times, highest in exposed areas.
A red status weather alert remains in place until noon today for Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry.
After that, an orange alert will remain in place for those counties.
Mr Clarke said Ireland was lucky to escape a series of tornados that were created out of Storm Rachel which hit parts of England.
"Storms don't hit equally everywhere. For example, when (Storm Rachel) moved in over the southwest of England, it generated a whole load of tornados and we were lucky not to get those during the night. They missed us and effected England. Equally the winds are not always the same values everywhere, it depends on location, and whether it's exposed."