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Ireland battered by 130kmh winds

VIOLENT storm force winds battered Ireland today, causing chaos for commuters.

The gales brought down trees and led to some flooding in conditions worse than Hurricane Katia last September.

The “destructive” winds howled from early today and reached speeds of up to 130kph, knocking over bins and blowing debris around the capital.

Drivers and pedestrians were warned to be wary of loose debris and the possibility of falling trees as conditions worsened throughout the morning.

And while the gales are to ease tonight, Met Eireann predicted they would return again next week.

Christmas shoppers were left to cling on to their bags as winds whipped violently through Dublin and other parts of the country.

AA Roadwatch called on drivers to “take extra care” on exposed routes, particularly those in high-sided vehicles.

“It's already stormy through parts of Leinster affecting Dublin, Wicklow Town and Tullamore in Co Offaly,” AA said this morning.

The gales reached speeds not seen since the tail end of Hurricane Katia hit the country last September. Met Eireann blamed the conditions on “a violent storm in our sea area”.

It predicted the winds would be strongest along the northwest and north coast where some gusts could be destructive, it said.

“The early days of next week will be very windy, with winds possibly reaching stormforce again on northern coasts on Monday night or Tuesday morning,” Met Eireann said.

It described the weather as an “extreme event”, though the majority was occurring at sea.

While they fell short of hurricane status, the wind speeds touched on violent storm force 11. A depression moved on the north west of the country and the strongest winds were near the centre of that front, forecasters said.

Met Eireann had issued three weather warnings in relation to the storm.

Snow and sleet was also predicted as temperatures dropped to as low as minus two degrees.

Donegal was one of the worst hit areas early today, with gusts of up to 140kph.

Met Eireann warned that damage-causing winds would get even worse by the evening.

By 8am there were reports of trees down in several areas and flooding in Stranorlar. At one stage a child’s trampoline blocked the main road outside Kilmacrennan. The Harry Blaney bridge which links the Fanad peninsula with Carrigart was also closed.

ESB units have been put on standby across the North West as there are fears of power outages later tonight.

The BBC and RTE are also now forecasting snow for tonight, tomorrow and the weekend. And the outlook isn’t any better – with another storm predicted for next week.

Cork went on storm and flood alert. Gardai stressed that county roads – particularly those in west Cork – were likely to be most impacted.

It came as the city and county were preparing for their busiest day of the Christmas shopping season to date with many schools closed.

Safety experts have warned that any damaged Christmas lights on the outside of homes should not be attended to until the winds ease.

While there were high winds and rain overnight across the Mid-West region there were no incidents.

The coast of Clare was battered by gale force winds and the emergency services remained on the alert.

Exposed parts of the western seaboard took the brunt of the severe conditions early today, with coastal areas of Co Mayo badly affected.

The Irish Farmers Association was warning farmers to act quickly to care for stock, as the driving rain was also expected to bring flooding to lands already saturated by a fortnight of heavy downpours.

“Water has already been lodging on roadsides for the last week or so and it can be particularly dangerous when it is combined with high winds that we have today,” a Garda spokesman told the Herald.

“Everyone on the road should slow down and arrive safely in these dangerous conditions.”

Drivers of high-sided |vehicles were advised in particular to reduce speed, especially on open roads and motorways.