Wednesday 16 October 2019

Storm Lorenzo: 'Orange means serious conditions' - gale-force winds to peak overnight, Met Éireann confirm

  • Winds to peak between 6-7pm on west coast
  • Rest of country will see winds pick up between 3-5am Friday
  • Risk of flooding from high seas
  • Public advised to prepare for power failures
  • 'Orange means serious conditions. It may pose risk of loss to life' - Housing Minister
  • Concerns about so-called 'storm hunters' who risk their lives to take dramatic photographs by coast
A walker and their dog pictured at the Blackrock Diving tower near the Promenade in Galway as Storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
A walker and their dog pictured at the Blackrock Diving tower near the Promenade in Galway as Storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
High seas and winds pictured on Howth pier....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
02/10/2019. National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG) - Press brief. Pictured Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack briefing the media ahead of storm Lorenzo as it progresses across the Atlantic. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Warning: The expected course of the storm as it approaches Ireland – it’s expected to bring 50mm of rain in parts. Illustration: Alistair Grant

Luke Byrne, Caroline O'Doherty, Ralph Riegel and Aoife Walsh

Storm Lorenzo’s force ten winds are expected to peak between teatime today and the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning.

Latest forecasts from Met Eireann as of 1pm Thursday say the critical hours for wind are between 6-7pm on the west and south west coast to 3-5am throughout the rest of the country.

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But the combination of wind, rain and high tide will make 9pm in western counties a particularly dangerous time for coastal counties.

The orange warning – the second highest of the severe weather alerts  - has been extended from a 3am finish tomorrow morning to 6am for western coastal counties while the remainder of the country remains under a yellow warning.

Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Eireann, said seas were already very high and the storm force ten 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.”

A sea swimmer takes to the water at the Blackrock Diving tower near the Promenade in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
A sea swimmer takes to the water at the Blackrock Diving tower near the Promenade in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

The current warnings are:

  • A Status Orange wind warning is in place for Galway, Mayo, Clare, Kerry and Limerick. Gusts of 100 to 130km/h can be expected. It is valid from 6pm today until 6am Friday.
  • A Status Yellow rainfall warning is in place for Connacht, Leinster, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal from 9am Thursday until 6am Friday.
  • A Status Yellow wind warning is in place for Leitrim and Sligo, from 6pm Thursday until 6am Friday.

The National Emergency Coordination Group met to assess the latest information this morning. A briefing that followed was told that road closures were already in effect in parts of Galway city where 20,000 sandbags have been filled in case of flooding.

In other coastal counties, 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.

Rainfall  is not expected to be significant but there will be some rain and coming on top of already saturated, there is a concern about the stability of tree roots and tree falls are expected.

A young man braves the sea spray at the Blackrock Diving tower near the Promenade in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
A young man braves the sea spray at the Blackrock Diving tower near the Promenade in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

Superintendent Tom Murphy urged motorists to take extra care. “Those with high-sided vehicles doing deliveries throughout the night, couriers and others who have to be out should be extremely vigilant because of the gusts and potential tree falls,” he said.

“Motorists starting the morning commute tomorrow should also exercise caution, slow down and maybe start their journey a little earlier.”

Local mem collect sandbags at Salthill in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Local mem collect sandbags at Salthill in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the fact that 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.

Padraic Conroy pictured with his mum Kay Conroy [90] as he places some sandbags to protect the front door of her home in the Claddagh in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Padraic Conroy pictured with his mum Kay Conroy [90] as he places some sandbags to protect the front door of her home in the Claddagh in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

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

With storm-force gusts possible, there is the risk of trees falling nationwide.

"We expect significant disruptive impacts. There could be trees down anywhere. Even in Yellow areas, people must heed the advice of the local authorities," said Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack.

More than 50mm of rain will fall in parts of the west and north-west.

In Galway, locals are hoping for the best, but preparing for the possibility of flooding.

6pm today (source – wxcharts.com)
6pm today (source – wxcharts.com)
Padraic Conroy from Galway collects some sandbags at the Claddagh as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Padraic Conroy from Galway collects some sandbags at the Claddagh as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

The council has been providing sandbags, with residents collecting them throughout the afternoon.

“It’s more of a precaution,” Padraig Conway told Independent.ie, who was helping place sandbags at the door of his mother 90-year-old mother Kay Conway’s home, which overlooks the sea.

“It flooded here a few years ago so we just went to make sure if it happens again we’re ready.”

Lisa Regan, was out walking with her dog Toby at the seafront.

“It looks like it may be downgraded, but we’re still worried it may flood later.

“I swim in the sea and there was a huge difference from yesterday.”

Lisa Regan pictured with her Shih Tzu Malteese cross, Toby during their walk at the Claddagh in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Lisa Regan pictured with her Shih Tzu Malteese cross, Toby during their walk at the Claddagh in Galway as storm Lorenzo tracked up the west coast of Ireland.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

Some of the businesses near the Spanish Arch has closed, with sandbags placed in front of them.

Meanwhile, in Mayo, the county council started operating their flood emergency plan after issuing a level 3 alert at 9am this morning.

A statement from the council urges the public to "exercise extreme caution" when venturing out to high risk coastal areas. Some road closures are expected to be announced later today.

It said: "We are urging the general public to be careful as they go about their daily routines. Should you need to travel, extreme care should be exercised mindful of the conditions. Please be aware of the potential of fallen trees, branches, electricity wires, debris on the roads and walk-ways and flooding in certain areas.

"In the event of Flash flooding and/or fallen trees, we will endeavour to address the matter as soon as is possible mindful of the safety of our Staff. A list of any roads/areas where fallen trees are reported will be published online and on social media channels.

"Coastal areas pose a very high risk currently from wind and high seas.  Please exercise extreme caution in these areas.

A webcam grab from Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station in Co Galway of the approach of Storm Lorenzo
A webcam grab from Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station in Co Galway of the approach of Storm Lorenzo

"We would like to assure the public that Mayo County Council will update you with further information as appropriate over next 24 hours and would request the co-operation of the public until such time as the storm has passed."

The south-west, west and north-west coasts will see all large sea swells and waves driven against the shores.

Forecaster Ms Cusack told how Storm Lorenzo is tracking north-east and transitioning from being a hurricane into a storm as it crosses from warm waters to cooler waters nearer Europe.

"There will be very low air pressure in the storm, which means there is little weight in the air pushing down on the sea, so sea levels rise.

"That combined with high tide, onshore gale-force 8 to storm-force 10 winds, and storm-force 11 winds for a time this evening, is all pushing against the south-west, west and north-west coast. So there is likely to be coastal flooding and coastal damage," she said.

A forecast of storm-force 11 winds means there will be gusts of more than 100kmh.

"It will be a short event but there is likely to be heavy pockets of rain and as the storm is of tropical origin there will be some thunderstorm activity and lightning," she added.

She said those areas under a Status Yellow wind warning could still see trees being felled.

"With the ground already waterlogged from rain, as well as the fact that the trees still have their leaves, it makes the risk of trees falling greater," she said.

Ms Cusack did not rule out the warning being upgraded to Status Red in some localised coastal areas.

Bus Eireann have announced that sailings between Rosslare and Pembroke and their Eurolines 890 services between Ireland and UK have been cancelled. Customers have been told to contact eurolinesales@buseireann.ie for for refunds or to re-book.

Institute of Technology, Tralee has informed students that the college will shut it's doors from 5pm, and has cancelled any class trips that were due to take place.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are closing a number of national parks and nature reserves from 4pm, and will remain closed until further notice.

Connemara National Park, Co. Galway Knockma Wood, Co Galway, Derryclare Nature Reserve, Co Galway, Wild Nephin, Ballycroy National Park, Co Mayo, Old Head Nature Reserve, Co Mayo, Laughil Wood, Co Mayo, Dromore Woods Nature Reserve, Co Clare, Killarney House and Gardens, Co Kerry, Killarney National Park, Co Kerry, Coole/Garryland Nature Reserve, Co Galway, Glengarriff Nature Reserve, Co Cork all closed this afternoon.

Jim Casey, from the Office of Public Works, said with high tide due around 9pm tonight, sea swells could over-top some coastal walls.

He said they were not expecting a major sea flooding on the east coast, but the situation is being constantly monitored.

The advice for householders, especially those in the Status Orange areas, was to ensure phones are charged in advance of the storm, torches are fitted with fresh batteries, and people have their Eircode and their unique MPRN number for electricity supply to hand in case they have to contact emergency services or report a power failure.

People on shared water schemes that could become compromised were also advised to stock up on drinking water.

Met Éireann webcams from the Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station in Co Galway showed worsening weather as the storm approached. You can see it here.

There are concerns about so-called 'storm hunters' who risk their lives to take dramatic photographs by the coast.

Derek Flanagan, from the Coast Guard, urged people to stay away from coastal areas including 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.

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