Monday 14 October 2019

Storm Lorenzo blasts in with 100kmh winds and threat of floods sparking safety warning

Sea defences: Padraic Conroy places sandbags at the home of his mother Kay (90) in the Claddagh, Galway. Picture: Frank McGrath
Sea defences: Padraic Conroy places sandbags at the home of his mother Kay (90) in the Claddagh, Galway. Picture: Frank McGrath

Luke Byrne, Ralph Riegel and Aoife Walsh

Storm Lorenzo's gale-force winds lashed across the country last night with the worst of the storm expected to hit before dawn.

A kite surfer was the first person to be injured in the storm, with the Coast Guard urging people to take extra care.

While a major search operation for a missing surfer was stood down in Kerry after the man was located safe and well.

More than 50mm of rain will fall in parts of the west and north-west. A forecast of storm-force 11 winds means there will be gusts of more than 100kmh.

The combination of wind, rain and high tide meant that western counties were at risk of flooding.

However, the depression turned towards the east and south-east last night, which threatened a prolonged period of heavy rain in north-western parts of the country.

An orange weather warning was extended to 6am for coastal areas in the west, while the rest of the country was status yellow.

Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Éireann, said seas were already very high and the storm-force 10 winds would drive some exceptionally high waves to shore, in particular during the high tide.

"It's a very short-lived storm," she said, but she added: "The winds are piling up the waves on the west coast."

Local crisis management teams were in place and the Defence Forces were on standby to provide emergency transport for hospitals in west Cork and to help clear roads throughout the country.

There will be some rain and, coming on top of already saturated ground, there is a concern about the stability of tree roots and falls are expected.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the fact the storm did not warrant a red warning did not take away from its potential to do harm.

"Orange means serious conditions. It may pose risk of loss to life," he said.

One man was rescued from Lady's Island Lake close to Tacumshane and Broadway in Co Wexford late yesterday while kite surfing.

A spokesperson for the Irish Coast Guard said: "The kite surfer came down hard in the storm and broke his leg. Ambulance services called in the Coast Guard to rescue him and then the [air and sea] helicopter to evacuate him."

The spokesperson added: "Coast Guard teams have so far responded to six incidents. With the worst of the weather still to arrive, please heed the warnings and stay away from exposed coastal areas."

Gardaí have advised the public to avoid coastal areas, drive to anticipate strong cross winds and hazards such as fallen trees, and slow down and allow extra space for pedestrians and cyclists.

There are also concerns about so-called storm hunters risking their lives to take photographs by the coast.

Derek Flanagan, from the Coast Guard, also urged people to stay away from piers and cliffs. "Be aware that if you end up in a dangerous situation, you could be putting at risk the lives of the crews that have to go and possibly rescue you," he said.

In Galway, locals were last night hoping for the best but preparing for the possibility of flooding. The council provided sandbags with residents collecting them in the afternoon.

In Mayo, the county council started operating its flood emergency plan.

Irish Independent

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