Ex-hurricane Ophelia arrived with the dawn off the south-west coast and wreaked widespread havoc before leaving under cover of darkness — thousands of trees felled in its wake, structural damage to buildings, up to 330,000 homes without electricity, and schools and creches facing a second day of closure today.
The human toll was most profoundly felt in counties Waterford, Tipperary, and Louth.
The first casualty was oncology nurse Clare O’Neill, who had worked as a cancer support co-ordinator with Cork ARC Cancer Support House, based in Youghal.
Ms O’Neill, a mother of one aged in her 50s, died instantly when a branch broke off a tree and smashed through her windscreen at around 11.40am in a rural part of Co Waterford. She was from Co Cork.
Her mother, in her 70s, was a passenger in the car but suffered injuries reported to be “non-life-threatening”.
In Tipperary, Michael Pyke, 31, who lived in the village of Ardfinnan with his father Tony, was killed at around 12.30pm when using a chainsaw to clear a fallen tree.
It is understood he went to cut up a tree which had fallen on a road about 3km from his home, but was fatally injured after being hit by another tree.
In Louth, a man in his 30s, named locally as father of two Fintan Goss, died when his car hit a tree at about 2.45pm at Ravensdale while driving home along the old Dundalk to Newry road.
It is understood he was heading home from work early because of the storm.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the condolences of the country and the Government “go to the families of those who have lost their lives”. He said the Government is committed to providing extra funding as part of the response to the aftermath of the storm.
“The full resources of the State will be made available,” said Mr Varadkar, with Cabinet sources saying the total sum is certain to run up to millions of euro.
There were calls for the Government to seek financial help from the EU’s crisis solidarity fund.
Employment law experts disputed Mr Varadkar’s suggestion that private companies may be obliged to pay workers who could not go to work yesterday.
Meanwhile, households around the country were preparing to survive by flashlamp and candlelight with the ESB warning that between 5% and 10% of households and businesses could be without power for up to 10 days.
Disruptions to the health service are also set to continue with some scheduled surgeries cancelled today. Moreover, due to the cancellation of thousands of outpatients’ appointments yesterday, the HSE has predicted a period of “catch-up”.
Health Minister Simon Harris said people can expect some delays in their appointments and discharges from hospitals over the next few days.
However, those with appointments today should turn up, unless told not to do so.
Farmers warned they could be facing into a fresh fodder crisis as Ophelia caused immediate and potentially long-term damage to agriculture.
Reports of roofs flying off sheds and damage to outhouses and fencing wire were common with roads badly affected by fallen trees.
John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, said an immediate concern for many dairy farmers would be getting their herd milked without an electricity supply.
Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association, warned of an impending fodder crisis — which is likely to require Government assistance.
Structural damage was widespread, with two of the more dramatic moments of Ophelia captured on camera in Cork City: The roof of the gym of Douglas Community College flew into a local resident’s garden and the roof of a stand at the home of Cork City FC collapsed. The team nonetheless intends for the title decider against Derry City to go ahead this evening.
Also in Cork City, up to 20 mature trees were felled along Centre Park Rd.
The Road Safety Authority has warned motorists that driving conditions may still be hazardous in parts today. The Luas isn’t expected to resume service until after lunch.
All RehabCare and National Learning Network centres across the country will remain closed today. All VTOS, Youthreach, and PLC facilities will also remain shut, but third-level institutions are set to reopen.