Thursday 15 November 2018

Met Éireann forecaster dismisses criticism: 'Status Orange warning for Storm Ali was absolutely correct'

  • Forecaster says Status Orange warning was correct level of caution
  • Storm Ali sparked weather warning for 17 counties in total
  • In Galway, a Swiss tourist lost her life in caravan tragedy
  • Young man died in tree incident in Newry, Co Down
  • Dozens of flights cancelled, hundreds of trees reported fallen nationwide, road and rail commuters experienced disruption
  • Second day of the National Ploughing Championships cancelled due to safety concerns
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Jane Jackson tries to clean up her stand in the exhibition site in Screggan after damage caused by Storm Ali . Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Jane Jackson tries to clean up her stand in the exhibition site in Screggan after damage caused by Storm Ali . Picture; Gerry Mooney

Denise Calnan and Cormac McQuinn

Met Éireann forecaster Gerry Murphy has insisted that the Status Orange warning issued for Storm Ali was the correct level of caution.

The forecaster dismissed criticism the day after the wind storm swept over the country, killing two people and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Storm Ali, named early Tuesday morning, sparked a Status Orange weather warning for 17 counties in total.

Dozens of flights were cancelled, hundreds of trees were reported fallen nationwide, road and rail commuters experienced disruption and the second day of the National Ploughing Championships was cancelled due to safety concerns.

A tree is removed from a car in Belfast after falling as a result of Storm Ali. Photo: PA
A tree is removed from a car in Belfast after falling as a result of Storm Ali. Photo: PA

In Galway, a Swiss tourist lost her life after the caravan in which she was sleeping was blown off a cliff.

Later in the day, a man in his 20s died when a tree fell on workers at Slieve Gullion forest park near Newry, Co Down. Another man, aged in his 40s, was seriously injured in the same incident.

Motorist had a lucky escape after a tree fell on car Photo: An Garda Siochana
Motorist had a lucky escape after a tree fell on car Photo: An Garda Siochana
Damage done to a tent at the Ploughing Championships
National Ploughing Championships 2018. People take cover from the torrential rain at the championships. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. People take cover from the torrential rain at the championships. Picture; Gerry Mooney
General view of muck at Ploughing Championships 2018 Day 2. Skreggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of empty road during delayed opening of Ploughing Championships 2018 Day 2. Skreggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of empty road during delayed opening of Ploughing Championships 2018 Day 2. Skreggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of blocked entrance during delayed opening of Ploughing Championships 2018 Day 2. Skreggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Picture: Caroline Quinn
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Stewards Richard Sunders and Mark Kennedy make their way throufgh a deserted site as storm Ali arrives . Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Portaloos blown over as storm Ali arrives in Tullamore. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Stewards Richard Sunders and Mark Kennedy make their way throufgh a deserted site as storm Ali arrives . Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Portaloos blown over as storm Ali arrives in Tullamore. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Luke and Niamh Maguire from Kilrush in Co. Clare make their way around in the rain at the championships. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. People run for cover in the heavy rain at the championships. Picture; Gerry Mooney
A tree down at BusÁras (Photo: Independent.ie)
A tree down on O'Connell Street (Photo: Independent.ie)
A tree collapsed on a house near Fine Gael TD Noel Rock's home this morning (Photo: Noel Rock Twitter)
A tree down on the Kilbeggan to Clara Road in Co Offaly

Concerns have been raised in the Dáil and on the airwaves since, with many saying the winds of Storm Ali were far more devastating than most anticipated.

Met Éireann's Gerry Murphy said today the Status Orange warning "was absolutely correct".

He added that some places with a Status Orange warning issued only experienced Status Yellow wind levels.

"The only place in the whole country where we experienced a wind speed of a Status Red level was on Mace Head, off the Connemara coast. This was a once-off gust and all the other gusts off Mace Head were lighter than that," Mr Murphy told RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke.

"In the broad sense of the word the orange warning was correct.

"The vast bulk of the country met the criteria. The red level was reached purely on the absolute coast in the west in a small region."

Mr Murphy said the team also issued a specific caution warning for the west after noting a "violent storm force 11" in the sea area.

"We specifically mentioned and advised to take extreme caution in Connacht, and along the west coast.

"A red level warning has the potential to close down a whole region, county and province," he continued.

"The orange warning was the correct warning."

People look out at the sea from Slea Head during Storm Ali in Coumeenoole, Ireland. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
People look out at the sea from Slea Head during Storm Ali in Coumeenoole, Ireland. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Speaking about the current forecast, Mr Murphy said Storm Bronagh will not have a major effect on Ireland.

"It will affect the UK, we will get some rainfall but not wind.

Speaking yesterday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney blamed "storm fatigue" as the Government came under immediate pressure over the level of preparedness for the extreme winds.

Aftermath: The caravan at Claddaghduff, Galway where a Swiss tourist was killed. Photo: Paul Mealey
Aftermath: The caravan at Claddaghduff, Galway where a Swiss tourist was killed. Photo: Paul Mealey

He said the government were ready for Storm Ali, but the public were not.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary raised the issue of storm preparedness in the Dáil yesterday morning.

He said: "Conditions seem to be worsening. The level of preparedness doesn't seem to be as effective as it previously was."

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, filling in for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, insisted the Government and Met Éireann had fully consulted over the approaching storm and issued alerts.

"The National Director for Fire and Emergency Management has been monitoring the evolving situation and met with Met Éireann on a daily basis for the last week," she said.

"The ploughing was cancelled to protect the tens of thousands of people that would be putting themselves in the line of orange and yellow warnings."

"So we are prepared. The warnings have been issued over the last number of days," she insisted.

The scale of damage inflicted by Storm Ali prompted many to query whether a full status red alert should have been issued.

Mr Coveney said that, after hard-hitting storms such as Ophelia and Emma which attracted status red alerts, it was possible people didn't take sufficient notice.

"There certainly has been many (Government) meetings in the build-up to this storm - we could see it coming," Mr Coveney said.

"The weather warnings have been there and been clear for a number of days now in terms of orange and yellow.

"I think sometimes when people don't see a red warning, they assume that everything will be fine.

"Actually the infrastructure of the State was prepared for this.

"Perhaps the public weren't though... perhaps storm fatigue - if you don't see a red warning, then maybe people don't sit up and take (sufficient) notice.

"People do need to listen to Met Éireann when they are issuing status orange warnings - that is a serious warning and people need to take account of it."

Council officials have suggested that the damage caused by Storm Ali was, in part, exaggerated by trees already weakened by Storms Ophelia and Emma.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section