#Ophelia: Personal safety the priority as Hurricane Ophelia tracks over Ireland

    People are urged to keep in mind their personal safety which is of utmost importance as Hurricane Ophelia approaches.

    People are urged to stay indoors and not to make unnecessary journeys.

    A Red Weather Alert is in force for the entire country tomorrow.

    Met Éireann has warned of a possible risk to life.

    All schools, colleges and childcare facilities will be closed.

    Airlines have announced flight cancellations and customers are advised to check online.

    The HSE has cancelled all outpatient appointments.

    Dunnes Stores close its stores nationwide today due to national Status Red weather warning.

    People are advised to stay indoors and make no unnecessary journies.

    People should secure any garden furniture, bins and other outdoor equipment before the storm hits.

    Heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding.

    ESB has warned of potential power outages of up to three days in some areas.

    Bus Éireann has cancelled all services nationwide from 5am to 2pm.

    An Post have cancelled mail services in Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Galway Clare and Limerick.

Photo: Twitter/Met Éireann

Update 12.09am:People have been urged to keep in mind their personal safety as Hurricane Ophelia approaches the country and is expected to bring winds in excess of 130km per hour.

People are advised to stay indoors and not to make any unnecessary journeys throughout the course of the day.

Met Éireann has extended the Status Red weather warning to the whole country as Hurricane Ophelia is forecast to track directly over Ireland today.

The forecaster has warned of violent and destructive gusts with all areas at risk, in particular the southwest and south in the morning, and eastern counties in the afternoon.

Heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding, with a potential risk to lives, according to the forecaster.

The Department of Education and Skills has publicly informed all schools, colleges and other education institutions that they are to remain closed.

The HSE has said all hospital outpatient appointments are being cancelled. Patients do not need to attend or contact their hospital and they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Bus Éireann has cancelled all services nationwide from 5am to 2pm due to the national Status Red weather alert and airlines have advised intending passengers to check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport.

Dunnes Stores announced the closure of its stores nationwide on Twitter and apologised for "any inconvenience caused" to its customers.

Update 10.47pm: Bus Éireann has cancelled all services nationwide from 5am to 2pm due to a national red weather alert.

The company said it will review the situation in the morning and attempt to provide some level of service in the afternoon,

However, it said it is likely that widespread disruption will continue.

"This unprecedented decision is taken in the interests of our customers and staff, and following careful consideration of the advice of agencies co-ordinating a response to Hurricane Ophelia," Bus Éireann said.

"We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption this will cause, but the hurricane is described as a ‘life threatening event’ and both Met Éireann and the National Emergency Co-Ordination Group have advised people to ‘stay indoors’ and ‘not to travel.’

"Bus Éireann have also informed their employees not to travel to work tomorrow before 2pm," it added.

Customers can check online for updates.

An Post have cancelled mail services in Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Galway Clare and Limerick.

A decision on the rest of the country is being deliberated by the mail service.

Irish Rail have also announced service disruptions.

Iarnród Éireann have said there will be no services on Limerick Junction to Waterford or Limerick to Ballybrophy via Nenagh.

All other services are expected to operate, however with some delays.

Speed restrictions are in place on some routes and maintenance teams will be monitoring the network.

Customers are advised to check irishrail.ie for updates

All RehabCare and National Learning Network centres are also closed tomorrow due to imminent Storm Ophelia

Coillte have announced there will be no public access permitted to any Coillte forests until furthe rnotice.

Update 10.27pm: Aer Lingus has announced a number of flight cancellations.

Passengers can check the status of their flight online.

CityJet has also canelled all flights its schedule Dublin to London route tomorrow.

Shannon Airport will remain open tomorrow but have announced the following flight cancellations: Aer Lingus Regional EI3675/3672 from and to Edinburgh and EI 3639/3638 from and to Birmingham, and London/Heathrow EI381 and EI384 with Aer Lingus.

“Airlines will continue to advise passengers of schedule changes and we advise intending passengers to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport tomorrow," according to a spokeswoman.

"The safety of our passengers and staff is our first priority. We would ask passengers to contact their airline with regard to updates on schedule changes for tomorrow," she added.

Update 9.56pm: The HSE has said all hospital outpatient appointments are being cancelled tomorrow following the upgrading of the Red Weather Warning by Met Eireann to the whole country.

Patients do not need to attend or contact their hospital and they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Patients who are scheduled to have a planned procedure can contact the hospital in the morning to confirm if their procedure is going ahead.

In order to minimise unnecessary travel risks for patients, only urgent procedures will take place tomorrow and only essential community services will operate.

ALONE, the charity which supports older people in need, are urging older people to take extra care.

Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE commented, “Following a status red weather warning from Met Éireann we are calling on all members of the public to remember their older neighbours living alone and to consider their needs.

"We’re advising older people to be prepared by ensuring they have adequate heat, medication, food and to stay indoors where possible.”

Those with concerns for an older person can contact ALONE on (01) 679 1032.

Update 8.22pm: Ex-Hurricane Ophelia is forecast to track directly over the entire country tomorrow, according to Met Éireann.

The forecaster has extended the Status Red weather warning to the whole country.

Violent and destructive gusts are forecast with all areas at risk and in particular the southwest and south in the morning, and eastern counties in the afternoon.

Heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding.

There is potential risk to lives, according to the forecaster.

In response to the imminent Storm Ophelia, the Department of Education and Skills is now publicly informing all schools, colleges and other education institutions that they are to remain closed tomorrow.

This decision has been made following discussions with members of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and in light of the advice from Met Éireann on this unprecedented storm.

Update 8.01pm: Patients and public are being advised not to travel tomorrow for hospital clinic appointments or non-urgent elective/planned procedures, according to the HSE.

This includes day case procedures as services deemed non-urgent have been postponed.

All appointments affected will be rescheduled by the relevant hospital.

Hospitals affected are University Hospital Kerry Cork University Hospital, Mercy University Hospital, South Infirmary University Hospital, Mallow General Hospital, Bantry General Hospital.

If patients are unclear about whether to travel for their appointment, they should contact their hospital using the phone number on their appointment letter.

Update 6.46pm: The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection have cancelled all customer appointments for Monday in Wexford, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.

Customers should not to attend appointments at Intreo or other Department offices on account of the severe weather conditions and the Department confirms that there will be no impact on customer payments.

"The Department will follow up with all affected customers to reschedule appointments as required," it said.

"Customers in Status Orange counties should also exercise due caution before travelling to any Intreo or other Department appointments. Customers in Status Orange counties who are unable to travel due to the adverse weather conditions are asked to contact the relevant office to reschedule their appointment.

The primary concern of the Department is to ensure the safety of all customers during this severe weather."

Inner City Helping Homeless has criticised the National Emergency Coordination Group on Severe weather for providing no mention of rough sleepers.

"There is a genuine concern that more homeless deaths will occur with the onslaught of Hurricane Ophelia so Inner City Helping Homeless have reached out to the homeless NGO's and the DHRE (Dublin Regional Homeless Executive) to call an emergency meeting tomorrow morning at 11am to put a plan in place to prevent further deaths in the homeless community," ICHH said.

"Inner-City Helping Homeless is counting as many as 206 rough sleepers a night, a record high - and nothing is being done.

The fact that an emergency meeting was held today to put a plan of action in place for the onslaught of Hurricane Ophelia without any thought for our most vulnerable people sleeping rough every night across the country is outrageous," ICHH CEO Anthony Flynn added.

Update 6.04pm: The Taoiseach has confirmed members of the Defence Forces will be deployed to areas where red weather warnings are in place as Hurricane Ophelia approaches.

Colonel Dave Dignam said personnel have already been deployed to areas of Kerry and Cork.

"The Defence Forces yesterday deployed troops in Tralee, Co Kerry in response to requests from Kerry County Council and have been tasked with filling sandbags as a contingency measure in the event of localised flooding.

"We're also standing up engineering assets in Collins Barracks, Cork. This unit will include pumps, plant machinery, chainsaws, boats and generators all ready to deploy in the event there is a requirement for that kind of capability.

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has urged farmers, fisherman and people in rural areas to take precaution during the storm.

"I urge farmers and all people in rural areas to ensure that they are ready for the approaching storm and ask them to follow closely the advice of the authorities particularly for those in the worst affected counties," he said.

"Priority is obviously the safety of people and I would reiterate the advice that only essential travel should be taken. For farmers they should ensure that their yards are secured by securing loose objects."

Update 5.11pm: ESB has said Storm Ophelia will cause disruption to the electricity infrastructure and loss of supply is expected.

ESB is advising customers to have "plenty of food and water" as well as "torches with spare batteries" available for the storm.

"If you come across fallen wires or damaged electricity network, never, ever touch or approach these as they are LIVE and extremely dangerous.

"Please report any damage to electricity infrastructure by calling 1850 372 999," it said.

In the event of a power cut, people are advised to take care using candles and other naked flames, and turn off "cookers, ovens and irons etc.".

People are also advised to use adequate ventilation if using gas heaters, and ensure that they know how to manual operate any electric gate they may have.

"Please check that elderly or vulnerable relatives and neighbours are prepared to be without electricity," ESB added.

UCC, CIT, GMIT, ITT, MIC, LIT, UL and WIT have all announced closures tomorrow.

Gardaí are advising people not to make any non-essential journeys while cycling should be avoided completely.

"Drivers of high sided vehicles and motorcyclists should also be aware of the extreme danger posed by gale force winds as they are particularly vulnerable," a statement from An Garda Síochána said.

Gardaí also warned of the risk posed by storm surge flooding in coastal areas.

"Please listen to local media/social media for updates on the progress of the storm and associated warnings and/or advice issued by the emergency services. Please heed this advice," it added.

Update 3.30pm: Bus Éireann will not operate school transport in Waterford, Wexford and Limerick tomorrow.

These counties join the list with earlier cancellation of services in Cork, Kerry Clare, Galway and Mayo.

The announcement follows the Department of Education advising schools in areas affected by the red wind warning to remain closed tomorrow.

Bus Éireann have advised passengers of likely disruptions to some other schedules services.

"While it is our current intention to operate most scheduled services there is a strong possibility that some of these may be cancelled – particularly in the southwest - in the event of a strong impact by Hurricane Ophelia" the company said.

Bus Éireann said it regretted any inconveniance this may cause but is taking the action out of fear for the safety of passengers and employees.

Update 3.09pm: Following a special meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning in response to the imminent Storm Ophelia, the Department of Education and Skills is now informing all schools in areas affected by Met Eireann’s status red wind alert that they are to act on the Department’s advice and remain closed tomorrow, Monday 16 October.

For parents, this means that their children will not attend school tomorrow in any area where there is a status red wind alert already announced or announced in the intervening time.

Schools in areas affected by a status orange alert should remain vigilant, and keep themselves appraised of any hourly and other updates from Met Eireann, and from their local authorities, local radio, and an Garda Siochana. In all events, and if in any doubt, schools should err on the side of caution.

Update 2.55pm: Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin has been critical of the guidance given by the Department around school closures as a result of storm Ophelia.

Speaking on The Week in Politics, Mr Martin said he was taken aback that despite CIE announcing there will not be buses there has been "nothing from the Department about whether schools should open or not."

"We can't be waiting for the last minute. Many children will not be able to get to school tomorrow. That is worrying in terms of other areas."

He has called on the government to give a "clear direction by close of business today".

Update 2.30pm: Hurricane Ophelia is expected to be the worst storm to hit Ireland in over 50 years.

The National Co-Ordination Emergency Group has now extended the red weather warnings and is advising people to stay inside.

A red warning is now in place for Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, in addition to Galway, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Mayo.

An orange level warning is in place for the rest of the country, with the storm expected to bring winds in excess of 130 km per hour as well as coastal flooding.

Chair of the committee Sean Hogan said things were likely to be very serious.

"We are facing an extreme weather event in the country tomorrow. Everybody in the country needs to take heed of what is coming"

The British met office have released the following video which shows the expected track of what tehy described as ex-hurricane Ophelia.

Meanwhile, 

members of the public have been urged to heed the advice of the Coast Guard who have warned members of the public to avoid any visits or walks to coastal or cliff areas.

"The Coast Guard is reminding the public of the dangers of visiting exposed coastal areas and to adhere to the core message of; Stay Back, Stay High, Stay Dry."

The Coastguard have asked the public to dial 112/999 and ask for the Coast Guard if they see someone in difficulty in the sea or on the shore

For a summary of regionalised news and warnings as they emerge check out this SUMMARY

Dublin Airport have also warned passengers to expect some disruption to flights when Hurricane Ophelia makes land tomorrow.

Siobhan O'Donnell from Dublin Airport Authority says people should check online before making their way to the airport in light of a number of cancellations.

Cork airport has also urged passengers to check with their airline in advance of travel to and from the airport on Monday with Aer Lingus already confirming some cancellations.

Update 1.50pm: Met Eireann says it's extending the red weather warnings to Waterford an Wexford as the country braces for Hurricane Ophelia.

The National Emergency Group is outlining its plans this afternoon on how it will prepare for the worst storm seen in Ireland since Storm Debbie which killed 11 people here.

Schools in the worst hit areas will be closed for childrens' safety

In their latest warning, from 9am tomorrow to 3am on Tuesday, Met Eireann said Hurricane Ophelia is expected to transition to a post tropical storm as it approaches our shores on Monday bringing severe winds and stormy conditions.

It goes on: "Mean wind speeds in excess of 80 km/h and gusts in excess of 130km/h are expected, potentially causing structural damage and disruption, with dangerous marine conditions due to high seas and potential flooding."

Update 1.10pm: The Chairman of the National Emergency Coordination Group, Sean Hogan, has appealed for people to take care tomorrow in those counties affected by status red weather warnings.

Mr Hogan, speaking after this morning's meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Committee, also advised schools to close in those counties affected by status red weather warnings.

Met Éireann earlier told the National Emergency Coordination Committee that it expects the eye of storm Ophelia to impact the south coast and then track up along the west coast and is presently updating its weather warnings in line with latest information

Update 12.35pm: Met Éireann has told the National Emergency Coordination Committee that it expects the eye of storm Ophelia to impact the south coast and then track up along the west coast.

The Committee heard that coastal counties will experience the highest winds and heavy rain and storm surges may cause flooding in some parts.

Met Éireann have said they will be monitoring the situation closely and will update its warnings if required.

Sean Hogan, Chairman of the National Emergency Coordination Group is hosting a media briefing following this morning’s meeting.

Update 11.40am:  The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney has urged the public to take the severe weather warnings around Hurricane Ophelia seriously.

The former Defence Minister suggested that anybody not taking storm Ophelia seriously should think again.

Writing on twitter he said: I don't remember ever seeing a forecast for the south coast quite like this.”

 

A meeting of the national emergency planning committee continues this morning with a public briefing expected at 12.30pm.

Evelyn Cusack of Met Eireann briefs the National Emergency Coordination Group meeting on weather developments this monring. Pic: Office of Emergency Planning (OEP)

Update 11 am: The possible impact of Hurricane Ophelia as it makes land fall in Ireland tomorrow is being discussed at a national emergency meeting this morning.

The storm has already been categorised as the strongest hurricane to emerge so far east in the Atlantic.

The tail end of the storm is to hit our shores tomorrow morning around 9am, with warnings of high winds and sea swells particularly along the west and south west coasts.

The predicted path of hurricane Ophelia. Courtesy of national world weather service

Meanwhile, the Dept of Education have also outlined guidelines in the event of a status red warning.

Earlier: Met Eireann has this morning warned that the strongest and most damaging winds from ex-hurricane Ophelia are now forecasted to affect Munster and south Leinster, particularly the southwest, south and Irish Sea coasts.

The service has already issued a Status Red weather warning for Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork and Kerry as the powerful weather system heads across the Atlantic towards Ireland.

In its most recent forecast at 4.30am this morning the service said that stormy conditions are expected to develop, in association with Ex-Hurricane Ophelia, on Monday.

It said rain will be widespread, with the heaviest falls likely to occur in Atlantic coastal counties, where there is a risk of thunder.

"At present, it looks as though gusty east to southeast winds will strengthen to storm force in the southwest by early afternoon, with strong gales developing along southern, eastern and some western coasts during the afternoon and evening.

"The winds will veer southwesterly as the low pressure system tracks northwards over western parts of the country. Flooding is threatened due to potentially heavy falls of rain and very high seas. Top temperatures of 15 to 19 degrees.

In an additional note Met Eireaan said at present, the strongest and most damaging winds are now forecasted to affect Munster and south Leinster, particularly the southwest, south and Irish Sea coasts with the heaviest rainfall accumulations in Connacht, west Ulster and west Munster.

"There are likely to be changes to the warnings which will be updated later this morning, pending the latest up to date guidance. This is an evolving situation and your patience is appreciated."

Yesterday Bus Éireann warned that School Transport Scheme services it operates in Cork, Kerry, Clare, Mayo & Galway will not operate on Monday.

Since 2015, the transport service has had a policy not to run school buses in areas affected by a Status Red weather warning to ensure school children are not endangered in any way.

"We are aware this decision may cause inconvenience, but safety of schoolchildren is our number one priority," a statement from Bus Éireann read.

"Schools will make their own decisions on whether to open or remain closed, but School Transport Scheme services will not operate in – or into – areas affected by Status Red.

"Services are expected to resume in these counties on Tuesday... please see www.buseireann.ie for updates in relation to this - and other service disruption"

Computer-generated projection of where the ’Ophelia’ weather system will be at 1pm on Monday, taken at 10.30pm on Saturday, Oct 14. Pic: earth.nullschool.net

A Status Orange Wind Warning is in place for the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, road users are being urged to be vigilant by the  Road Safety Authority who advise checking traffic conditions before travelling, amid warnings from Met Éireann about possible storm-force winds and heavy rain. 

The RSA is warning drivers to be aware of the danger of aquaplaning especially on roads with speed limits of up to 120 km/h, and to be careful of vehicles veering across the road in strong winds.

Brian Farrell, Communications Manager with the RSA, said cyclists need to be particularly careful.

 

According to NASA "Ophelia is likely to be the most potent storm to reach Ireland since Hurricane Gordon in 2006".

Meteorologist Joan Blackburn says windy conditions are expected across the country forecasting “a generally wet and stormy day".

“Generally across the country we are expecting mean speeds of 65-80kmp/h, with gusts of 110-130km/h, and then in those coastal counties of Cork to Mayo, we could well see gusts in excess of 130 km/h.”

More as we get it but follow updates from Met Éireann here.


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