Friday 19 October 2018

Status Red: Just hours until nationwide lockdown as Taoiseach warns people not to underestimate Storm Emma

  • Red alert: Country moves towards lockdown as Ireland braces for 'unprecedented' blizzard

  • All schools, colleges and third level institutions closed

  • Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Luas confirm they will not operate on Friday

  • Ryanair and Aer Lingus cancel all flights from Ireland on Friday

  • People urged to be home by 4pm Thursday and stay indoors until Friday 3pm

  • Taoiseach urges people to pay heed to warning

  • Storm poses serious threat to life

  • People should not be on the road today unless it's emergency

Some scenes from around the country ahead of the arrival of Storm Emma
Some scenes from around the country ahead of the arrival of Storm Emma
Emaan Ahmad (3) from Limerick waiting who travelled from Limerick to greet her father Shakeel at Dublin Airport. Pic:Mark Condren
Amy Holmes (6), Lauren Duggan (9), Tommy Dunne (5), Luke Duggan (6) and Callum Duggan in Lanesborough Park, Finglas Photo: Caroline Quinn
Sisters Angelina (8) and Megan Kaluzinska (3) on Liberty Street, Cork. Photo: Provision
Denis Hogan, from Kildare County Council, spreads grit in Maynooth Photo: Frank McGrath
A snowman on a bench in Dublin Photo: PA

Paul Melia, Kevin Doyle and Laura Larkin

THE Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that the "risk to life and limb" presented by severe weather over the next couple of days should not be underestimated.

Mr Varadkar urged people to stay indoors from 4pm on Thursday until at least 3pm on Friday as a Status Red weather warning was further extended across the country.

Storm Emma latest: Safety advice to stay home withdrawn as blizzard conditions pass See the latest weather updates on Independent.ie: http://indo.ie/I2A930iI753

Posted by Independent.ie on Friday, March 2, 2018

"Everyone should be at home after 4pm, nobody should be on the roads after that," he said.

The chair of the National Emergency Coordination Group, Sean Hogan, has warned of blizzard conditions from Thursday evening which will continue throughout the night

Scenes on Dorset St at 8am this morning.
Scenes on Dorset St at 8am this morning.

"There has been widespread snow and ice around the country, traffic is at low levels and other than on main roads conditions are treacherous," he told a press briefing after the latest meeting of the group this lunchtime.

He was speaking as Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Luas confirmed that they will not operate on Friday as the shutdown of public transport extends beyond tomorrow afternoon. Aer Lingus has also cancelled all flights from Ireland on Friday.

Many businesses, all schools, colleges and non-essential Government departments are closed on Thursday and Friday due to the warning. The GAA has confirmed that all its Allianz League games this weekend are postponed.

"The public is urged to request the assistance of emergency services in emergency situations only, there will be some delays," Mr Hogan said.

Scene on the North Circular Rd this morning at 8am
Scene on the North Circular Rd this morning at 8am

"Our local authorities will start to collate reports as blizzards clear Friday. National group will try to restore services in aftermath. Defence services remain on standby," he added.

Heavy snow continued to blanket the country on Thursday, with temperatures falling well below zero.

As the day progresses heavy snowfall and gusts of up to 110kmh will result in a "total whiteout" and "zero-visibility". Up to 40cm of snow is predicted in some areas over the next 36 hours.

Storm Emma will reach the south east from 4pm today and will then travel across the country. "There is a high degree of uncertainty" around how the storm will behave, Met Éireann's Evelyn Cusack said.

Scene on the North Circular Rd this morning at 8am
Scene on the North Circular Rd this morning at 8am

She added that conditions will improve on Friday but this evening and tonight will be the worst for weather conditions.

"People will need to be conscious of the conditions which prevail. Our message is very clear - this storm is coming," Mr Hogan said. "Our concern is if you get driving wind and snow together, visibility which is very poor, and if you're out there you may become disoriented and get lost very quickly.

"If you fall ... unfortunately we had cases where people died during the cold spells in 2010 who were out doors. There's a very real public safety issue here."

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has also echoed the warning for people to heed all warnings and stay indoors while the weather warning is in place.

All non-essential hospital visits have been cancelled and arrangements will be made for patients who must attend.

Health staff who manage to make it to work today will have their "efforts acknowledged" by the HSE, according to a memo seen by Independent.ie.

The HSE has now decided that anyone who cannot get to work or whose workplace is closed will receive emergency leave with pay.

There had been fears doctors, nurses and other workers would have to make up their hours at a later date or have their pay docked.

Sources also said the HSE "will find ways to acknowledge efforts of all who are working & keeping vital services going".

And people are asked to check on elderly neighbours during the critical hours.

They are encouraged to have their Eircode at the ready in case emergency services are needed.

All schools, colleges and third level institutions will close nationwide today.

Across the UK, a gas deficit warning has been issued but Gas Networks Ireland said there are currently no restrictions on gas supply to customers in Ireland.

"Gas Networks Ireland is confident that current Irish gas demand can be met through the combination of our interconnector in Scotland and indigenous supplies from Corrib and Kinsale. We will continue to monitor the situation in the UK."

The Defence Forces are being prepped to conduct emergency ambulance and fire-fighting, due to concerns about safety risk to personnel. Army 4x4 trucks are on standby for road dispatches, while the Coast Guard have been asked to keep their helicopters available.

"The National Ambulance Service will still be responding to 999 and 112 calls and offer the best assistance they can," the HSE said. "The Defence Forces will provide assistance, but the National Ambulance Service will continue to respond to calls."

Furthermore there are now major fears about flooding in Cork tomorrow due to high spring tides, coupled with the storm.

Not since 1982 has the country been struck with such force by Mother Nature, as Storm Emma clashes with Arctic winds. It will cause heavy snowfall and gusts of up to 110kmh, resulting in "zero-visibility".

Munster and Leinster will be worst-hit but the adverse conditions are expected to move westwards around the country.

Met Éireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack said the "clash zone" where Storm Emma will meet Arctic temperatures, the so-called 'Beast from the East', is over Ireland which prompted the Red warning.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Ms Cusack said that there are "exceptionally" low temperatures expected today. Temperatures overnight plunged to -7C.

"It's going to be -6C or -7C and there will be wind chill effects. The lowest temperatures will be in the west and north-west. A lot of snow showers have been pushing westwards from the Irish sea."

Ms Cusack said there will be freezing conditions throughout the day.

"The warning is for the low temperatures and snow showers are more widespread, and so it's the combination of these wintry conditions that has led to status Red conditions.

"The 4pm warning is countrywide because the initial part of Storm Emma is going to hit the south-east first. It will then hit the rest of the country later in the day. It's 4pm starting in the east and then expanding north throughout the country.

"Windy conditions and gale force winds will last for 24 hours because Storm Emma is gradually pushing up. We're going to be in this gale force easterly gradient for 24 hours and the snow and freezing rain will be with us in various stages across the country from this evening and tomorrow."

Public transport is operational in some places but is winding down.

Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus services are suspended until Saturday while Luas services will stop running in Dublin by lunchtime, with Irish Rail services to be  suspended by 2pm countrywide.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said the situation facing the country today is "almost unprecedented".

All major routes are operational at the moment but Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) have urged people not to travel unless it is an emergency situation.

The Defence Forces are being prepped to conduct emergency ambulance and fire-fighting, due to concerns about safety risk to personnel. Army 4x4 trucks are on standby for road dispatches, while the Coast Guard have been asked to keep their helicopters available.

"The National Ambulance Service will still be responding to 999 and 112 calls and offer the best assistance they can," the HSE said. "The Defence Forces will provide assistance, but the National Ambulance Service will continue to respond to calls."

Furthermore there are now major fears about flooding in Cork tomorrow due to high spring tides, coupled with the storm.

Employers have been asked to consider if they need to remain open and, if so, to ensure staff make it safely home by 4pm.

Irish Independent

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