Schools closed again as building inspections set to begin in earnest

The Department of Education has said the decision to close schools for a second day today was taken on child safety grounds as school authorities were only beginning to check the buildings to see what, if any damage, they sustained thanks to yesterday’s unprecedented storms.

Brendan Coleman looking at a section of the roof of Douglas Community School gym, which was blown through his garden. Picture: Dan Linehan

“While it is recognised that some schools may not be as badly impacted as others, the information available at this time indicates that over 350,000 businesses and homes are already without power, and severe winds continue to cause damage across the country as the storm progresses,” the Department of Education said yesterday afternoon.

“It is also the case that school authorities will in very many cases not have had an opportunity to check their buildings and confirm they are safe, have power and water, and that routes to the school are safely open.”

The department said it “recognised” that the decision to close schools would have a major impact on families and on the workforce. “However, this decision has been taken in the interests of safety for children and to provide clarity for everyone concerned.”

While the public, in the main, heeded the warnings to stay away from water, footage emerged online of people taking unnecessary risks by venturing close to coasts and cliffs and even entering the sea.

Both the Irish Coast Guard and Rosslare Harbour-based RNLI were called out yesterday morning to assist a stricken 10m yacht, with the eight-strong lifeboat crew reporting wind speed in excess of 70 knots hampering their efforts.

Despite this the yacht was brought safely ashore.

In Louth, a lifeboat from the Clogherhead RNLI was launched to come to the aid of a group of windsurfers north of Dundalk Bay.

A Rescue 116 helicopter was also launched, but it became apparent that the windsurfers were not in difficulty, and that the call for aid had come from concerned members of the public on shore. The rescue services were stood down.

“They weren’t in trouble, it was just well-informed members of the public that raised the alarm,” said Gerard O’Flynn, operations manager with the Irish Coast Guard.

“It turned out that those people weren’t in difficulty, but they went out of sight from the shore. Members of the public became concerned so it was felt a response was warranted.”

There were many reports of trees felled by the high winds across Waterford and the south-east.

Dozens of buildings suffered roof damage. The roof of Lidl on Davis Rd, Clonmel, was blown off, as was the roof of the Curtains & Blinds shop on Clonmel’s O’Connell St. There was damage done to the roof of Clerihan National School, between Clonmel and Cashel, while the roofs were blown off seven buildings on Brown St, Portlaw, Co Waterford.

Hundreds of homes were without power because of outages in Kilkenny and Tipperary.

In Clare, residents at the seaside resort of Lahinch, that was so badly hit in the 2014 storms, breathed a collected sigh of relief as the peak of Storm Ophelia passed without causing any major damage to the resort.

Michael Vaughan, owner of the four-star Vaughan’s Lodge Hotel, said: “There were quite a number of press photographers here looking for the dramatic shots and they have now gone away without any of the shots they were looking for, which is good news for us here.”

Villagers were braced for high tide before 4pm and Mr Vaughan said that “the worst has passed and I would say that the storm didn’t even cause any minor damage in the village. Conditions were favourable. The sea wasn’t as high.”

Since the 2014 storms, Clare County Council has installed new coastal protection works facing onto the prom.

Meanwhile, the Road Safety Authority has warned motorists that driving conditions may still be hazardous in parts today, even in the aftermath of the storm.

“Many roads around the country will be blocked and treacherous with downed trees, branches and pylons,” said the RSA.

“Council workers and emergency services will be out clearing these routes and people need to anticipate encountering these scenarios when using the roads.”

It said coastal routes may still be flooded in parts, and that pedestrians and cyclists should be aware of potential hazards. “The severe winds may have loosened roof tiles and other objects from buildings and these may still pose a potential risk. Be aware of what’s happening above you and stay clear from the edges of buildings. Leaves on footpaths and the roadsides will make for slippery conditions.”

Workplaces across Ireland closed their doors yesterday, deciding it wasn’t worth the risk of trying to trade in the midst of the worst storm to hit the country in decades.

Mandate Trade Union had written to all the major retail employers calling on management to confirm their stores’ closures before 1pm yesterday.

Chains such as Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, and Lidl, were closed from early on in order to keep staff and customers safe.

Debenhams, Penneys, Heatons, Arnotts, Brown Thomas, and Shaws were some of the clothes retailers that shut their doors. Electrical goods and homeware stores such as Ikea and Harvey Norman also closed.

Eason and Dubray bookstores shut their doors as did hairdressing chain Peter Marks.

Tesco also announced its stores’ closures at about 2pm following a statement from Mandate condemning the retailer for not taking the action earlier.

Bank of Ireland, AIB, Ulster Bank, and Permanent TSB also closed.


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