‘Extraordinary storm as next 48 hours critical’

There was significant damage and disruption in the transport and energy sectors across Ireland caused by yesterday’s storm.

This is according to Sean Hogan, chairman of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG), who spoke on the impact of yesterday’s storm at a briefing in Dublin this afternoon.

He described the storm as “extraordinary”, one of the worst to hit Ireland since 1991. “We have been assembling the impact of yesterday’s extraordinary storm, which started yesterday morning,” Hogan said. “Even in the winter of storms that we have had, this has been the most extreme event so far.

“The storm was were flag with a red warning yesterday and it travelled across the country leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. It caused damage to buildings, tearing down trees causing power outages. Thankfully despite the extraordinary conditions there has been no loss of life reported associated with this storm and a number of minor injuries thankfully is all we have.”

The NECG chairman continued: “There was a similar storm in 1991 of similar proportions, which resulted in 14 deaths, so we have a lot to be grateful for.”

An ESB official outlined there was significant damage to its communication infrastructure and this morning more than 190,000 homes and businesses remained without supply.

As part of the emergency response today, crews from Northern Ireland Electricity will join ESB Networks staff to assist in the restoration effort. Also he outlined that ESB Networks crews have been drafted to the worst-effective areas from all over the country and are already assisting in the repair work.

At the briefing ESB advised it could take a number of days to restore power to all areas as some of the infrastructure is in remote areas and access problems may hinder them.

“Our primary objective is to get communities back functioning again as quickly as possible,” the chairman of NECG said. “To get power back to homes today and the coming days, to the infrastructure affected and to get the roads open and to get transport operating again.”

The NECG said it also remains very concerned that people stay safe, particularly people without power. “These are very difficulties situations for people. We are also asking people to check in on vulnerable areas, particularly in areas without power.

“Over the next few days will be a severe test of reliance of households that have been affected,” Hogan added.

In terms of swollen rivers, the NECG said inland flooding in the Munster region still remains a concern. “Fortunately there has been some relief, the water levels have receded a bit, but it is something we are watching,” he said.

Asked specifically about the impact of the storm on farmlands across the country, the NECG chairman said it was significant and he praised the efforts of farmers in rural communities.

“There has been very significant impacts in terms of damage to trees and farmland. Isolated roads would be our main concern at the moment.” He also praised the resilience of rural communities across Ireland.

“We have seen that time and time again, rural communities helping themselves and neighbours. We would again encourage that, that people would help eachother and use the resources of tractors to clear the roads. That would also be of help to our ESB colleagues. One of our concerns here today is to support the EBS, the faster they can get in to repair poles, the better.”

Speaking at the briefing, Environment Minister Phil Hogan paid tribute to frontline workers, who “had gone beyond the call of duty in very difficult circumstances”.

“The next 24 hour to 48 hours are critical,” he said. “A lot of trees have been knocked down after eight storms and they are numerous unsettled trees. I would ask property owners to take a look at those trees after all we have been very fortunate with no serious injuries but we do not want to tempt faith. We ask people to continue to be vigilant.”

Met Eireann also outlined its forecast for the coming days.

Speaking at the briefing Met Eireann’s Evelyn Cusack said a low-grade wind warning across Ireland is in place this afternoon. “But there are very strong winds in the North West,” she outlined. “Snow showers are present across the country and the forecast is for these to die out around midnight. We will have icy roads tonight and through the middle of the night.”

Met Eireann forecasts a further change in the weather. “We have another area of low pressure coming in across Ireland tomorrow. Now it is not going to be another full-blown storm, but it is going to be wet and windy weather tomorrow in much of Munster and Leinster. We will be issuing weather warnings, certainly yellow, probably orange for Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wicklow for a forecast of 20-30ml of rain and easterly gale force winds.

Cusack continued: “This weather we are experiencing currently is exceptional but not unprecedented. The last time we had so many continuous storms was in 1988. In terms of severity, it would be in the top five or six storms.”

Storm impact as outlined by the National Emergency Co-ordination Group

Transport
Widespread disruption over night, but is much improved this morning, Iarnrod Eireann deployed 400 staff on the ground, and all bar 4 services have been restored.

Energy
260,000 homes had lost power yesterday, predominately in the South, South West and South East, this number had been reduced to 190,000 by the end of the day. ESB are prioritising critical infrastructure, such as water supplies which had been badly impacted.

Communications
10% – 12% loss of coverage mainly in South West, again these facilities are being prioritised to get these up and running, Eircom estimate that they will restore service to 30-60,000 customers by the end of the day.

999 Service
Saw an increase of calls from the normal 6,000 to 12,000 incidents yesterday, and the number of operators on call was doubled.

Garda
Kilkenny initiated their major emergency plan during the day; this was stood down at 7pm yesterday evening.

HSE
St Luke’ hospital had suffered a loss of power, but this is now back up and running, there are no other major incidents to report.

Education
No reports of injuries to pupils or staff. 38 schools are closed in Kerry today, with 14 in Clare and 12 in Limerick also closed.

Pictured recent farmland flooding in the midlands/Image Irish Air Corps

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