#Ophelia: Schools to remain closed tomorrow; Three die in separate incidents as over 200,000 left without power

Update - 3.50pm: The Minister for Education has confirmed that all schools will remained cloesed tomorrow.

In a statement from the Department of Education, they have confirmed that schools will remain closed in the interest of child safety.

"Following careful consideration by the National Emergency Coordination Group, the Department of Education and Skills, has decided that all schools will remain closed tomorrow.

"This decision was primarily taken in the interests of child safety and on the basis of information available in what is a developing situation.

"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.

"Many regional and local roads are closed due to fallen trees.

"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.

"It is recognised that the decision to close schools will 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."

Scroll down for all the closures, transport cancellations and weather warnings from county councils around the country.

Update - 2.55pm:200,000 without power as storm claims second victim

Two people have died in Ireland in incidents related to Storm Ophelia.

A man, aged in his 30s, was killed in a chainsaw accident in Cahir, Co Tipperary when he was trying to clear a tree downed by the violent winds.

Earlier, a woman died when a tree fell on to her car in severe winds.

The Garda said the driver was in her mid 50s and was travelling outside Aglish village in Co Waterford when she was killed.

A female passenger, in her 70s, was also injured and taken to Waterford Regional Hospital for treatment, gardai said. Her injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Gardai have urged all road users to remain indoors and not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

Gusts of over 96mph (156kph) have already battered the south west coast of Ireland. In Cork, the roof of Cork City's football stadium was blown off.

Around 360,000 homes and businesses are now without power and trees and power lines have been blown over as the storm makes its way through the Republic of Ireland up into Northern Ireland.

ESB, the Republic of Ireland's electricity network, warned that more outages are expected and that repairs will take several days.

Ireland's National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG) on Severe Weather warned that the storm is "unprecedented with serious life- threatening conditions".

The group added that all unnecessary travel should be avoided.

"Do not be outside during the passing of the storm. The fatality in Waterford emphasises the dangers posed during this period," NECG added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged the public to stay safe, saying: "The advice is: stay indoors until the storm passes.

"Whether that is at work, in their home or some other home, stay indoors. Check on neighbours and relatives.

"Bear in mind it is coming your way and it is a national red alert.

"It is a very dangerous storm. The last time there was a storm this severe 11 lives were lost."

In Cork, a local phographer had a lucky escape after being knocked to the ground when a tree was uprooted by strong winds on Centre Park road.

Update - 2.43pm: Coast Guard called to three incidents, including kitesurfers; More than 200,000 without power

More than 200,000 homes are without power as storm Ophelia tracks its way across the country.

The ex-hurricane is due to batter Connacht and Leinster in the mid afternoon, before it strikes Ulster.

The public is being urged stay indoors and away from coasts, after several incidents this morning.

Eugene Clonan, chief of operations with the coast guard, said: "We have sent out the RNLI, coast guard teams and coast guard helicopter this morning to three incidents.

"One to escort a yacht to Galway Bay, one yacht with two people on board into Rosslare and I have a number of kitesurfers up in Blackrock in Counth Louth who have now come off the water."

Adam Brennan and Cillian Twomey of the Irish Coast Guard keeping watch as storm Ophelia approaches Fountainstown Beach, Cork. Pic: Dan Linehan

Update 1.45pm:  Renewed calls for safety as damage grows Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has strongly urged people not to under-estimate storm Ophelia as "anything other than a national emergency" for all areas and insisted the public must take heed of the serious warnings issued nationwide, writes political correspondent, Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Mr Varadkar issued the warning as he said the violent storm has the potential to take lives just an hour before the tragic death of a woman in Co Waterford.

Speaking after the first of three meetings of the national emergency co-ordination group at the Department of Agriculture in Kildare Street, Dublin city, Mr Varadkar rejected claims Government has been caught off-guard on the issue.

However, he urged the public not to under-estimate the seriousness of the storm bearing down on the country, insisting: "It is coming your way".

"It's important people are heeding the warnings we're giving them. The sense I have around the country is people have heeded the warning, I do have a concern though that believe people the storm isn't going to be as bad as predicted.

"That of course is a possibility. We may be here tomorrow relieved the damage is less than we thought, but we can't operate on that basis. I don't want anyone to think this is anything other than a national emergency, a red alert in all counties, all cities, all areas.

"I think as everyone knows at this stage, storm Ophelia is a very dangerous storm. The last time we had a storm this severe 11 lives were lost," Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar urged the public to take four specific points of advice on board throughout the course of today and for as long as the red alert weather warning is issued for the country.

These are:

* Stay indoors wherever you are until the storm has passed

* Check on your neighbours and elderly relatives, particularly those living alone

* Bear in mind that while in some parts of the country the storm is not that bad "it is coming your way" and that Met Eireann's advice is that this is a national red alert

* Remember that even after the storm has passed, there will still be dangers such as trees or electrical power lines on the ground

The Taoiseach thanked emergency services workers, local authority officials and the defence forces for turning up for work today to help those in most need - a comment repeated on RTE Radio by Health Minister Simon Harris, who also said all hospital outpatient appointments have been cancelled, a situation which will impact on services throughout the week.

Billboards down on the Lower Road, Cork city. Pic: Jim Coughlan

However, he rejected claims Government has been caught off-guard by the scale of the storm due to the fact a series of service shut downs and severe weather warnings were only issued yesterday and last night.

"No, Government is prepared for this. As I said, the minute we got the Met Eireann warning last week this group was active and Sean Moran [the national emergency co-ordination group chair] was speaking personally to local authorities around the country.

"It was only yesterday evening that the decision was taken by Met Eireann to extend the warning to the entire country, so Met Eireann had to make the decision to move this from a storm that would affect six to eight counties to one that will affect all parts of the country," he said.

Meanwhile, during the same media briefing, Transport Minister Shane Ross confirmed Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann have cancelled services, Iarnrod Eireann is running "sporadically but withdrawing services" and that "there have been cancellations at the airports".

He said the public should "expect a review of all the transport services on an hourly basis" and to check the respective websites and the Department of Transport website for the latest information.

The national emergency co-ordination group is due to meet again at 2pm and 7pm, before further announcements on how storm Ophelia is affecting the country today, overnight and tomorrow are announced.

Update - 12.59pm: One person has died as a result of storm Ophelia

One person has died as a result of storm Ophelia and almost 170,000 homes are without power.

The woman in her 50s was killed when the car she was driving was struck by a falling tree outside Aglish village in Co Waterford on the R671 this morning at 11.40am.

Another woman in her 70s was injured and has been removed to Waterford Regional Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Emergencies services are still at scene.

Gardaí are urging motorists to stay indoors and not to travel unless your journey is absolutely necessary.

They said: "Weather conditions in West Waterford and Waterford city are currently described as severe and reports of numerous falling trees due to high winds."

Hurricane wind speeds of 190 kilometres an hour have been recorded at Fastnet rock off the south Cork coast.

Schools, universities, small businesses, and some health centres are shut, with many employees being urged to stay at home.

Scroll down for all the closures, transport cancellations and weather warnings from county councils around the country.

Update - 11.52am: Cork sees winds gust at 190km/h as #Ophelia blows roofs offA roof has been blown off a house on the northside of Cork city, writes Eoin English of the Irish Examiner.

Gardaí say more houses could be affected in the Ardmore Avenue area of Cork city as the city bears the full brunt of Orphelia's hurricane force winds.

There are also reports that roofs have been blown off caravans in a Traveller halting site in Ballyvolane, also on the northside of the city.

There are reports of trees down across the city and county, with roads blocked in several areas.

Among the roads affected are the N40 South RIng Road where a tree is down between junction 10 Mahon and junction 9 Bloomfield.

There are up to a dozen trees down along the Leap to Skibbereen Road, which is completely blocked.

Thousands of people in the region are without power.

Winds of just over 190km/hr have struck off the coast of Cork this morning.

The stunning speeds hit Fastnet Lighthouse just before 11am.

Cork City Council have advised people to travel only if necessary as "the next two hours are critical".

They said: "Wind speeds are significant and pose a grave risk to human line. Wind speeds are up to 120 kilometres per hour already.

"Even after the eye of the storm passes, there will still be significant strength in the wind.

"This wind will pose a serious risk to human life so anyone who is at work is being asked to remain in situ and not to attempt to travel home until the risk has abated significantly.

They have confirmed that the flooding risk in the city has reduced enormously.

They said: "Water levels will rise from noon for a couple of hours but will remain steady and high tide should not pose a risk."

Update - 11.10am: Winds reach 168km/h off Cork; Taoiseach urges people to stay indoors

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says people have heeded the warnings from the state agencies.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged the public to stay safe, saying: "The advice is: stay indoors until the storm passes.

"Whether that is at work, in their home or some other home, stay indoors. Check on neighbours and relatives.

"Bear in mind it is coming your way and it is a national red alert.

"It is a very dangerous storm. The last time there was a storm this severe 11 lives were lost."

Mr Varadkar added that the National Emergency Coordination Group will be meeting throughout the course of the day.

He added: "People paid by the State, they will continue to be paid today. When it comes to the private sector, a lot of people can work from home, and if they can they should do so.

"Obviously, it's up to the individual employers to decide whether people who missed work are paid or not."

Update - 10.50am: Winds of just over 168kmph are being reported with growing reports of damage 

Winds of just over 168 kilometers per hour are being reported off the coast of Cork.

Fastnet Lighthouse says gusts of 91 knots struck its base at 10.15am this morning.

In the county, a tree has fallen on a passing car on the Tower Road in Blarney.

Update - 10.30am: Engineers in Cork City Council say they are confident there will be no flooding in the city centre this afternoon, writes Eoin English of the Irish Examiner.

They said water levels in the river Lee are due to rise from around 12 noon until 1pm and will hold for several hours as Ophelia sweeps northwards.

But in an alert issued in recent minutes, they said the flooding risk has reduced significantly and that hurricane force winds remain the greatest risk.

Businesses in Morrison's Island and South Terrace had been on standby for possible flooding at high tide around 4pm.

However, engineers have said that flooding at high tide is not looking likely now.

They will continue to monitor the situation throughout the afternoon.

A tree down just off Model Farm Road, Cork. Pic: Denis Minihane

Update - 10am: Met Éireann say worst of weather will have passed by midnight. 

Met Éireann says the worst of the weather will have passed over Ireland by midnight.

Forecaster Joan Blackburn said: "I suppose the lucky thing is that it is actually moving very quickly for a storm like this, it's moving at a rate of about 24 knots.

"More severe winds will affect different parts of the country at different times, so even when it is getting really bad in the north of the country, the southern coastal counties will probably begin to get a little bit of a decrease.

"And then they will decrease further through the evening, while it could be a peaking up over the north."

Counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal are due to bear the brunt of the winds.

Met Eireann have said that ex-Hurricane Ophelia is forecast to track up over western parts of Ireland during daytime today.

The forecaster said that the most severe conditions over Munster and South Leinster will happen this morning and early afternoon.

They said: "Violent and destructive gusts of 120 to 150 km/h are forecast countrywide. These over Munster and south Leinster this morning, will extend quickly to the rest of the country this afternoon.

"Also heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding. There is a danger to life and property."

Earlier:  Whole country to be hit by "violent and destructive" winds

A Red Weather Alert has been issued for the whole country as "violent and destructive" winds are expected in every county.

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

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

Met Eireann have said that winds will reach their maximum strengths from the following times in the following areas.

      The public are advised to remain indoors from these times.

  • From 07:00: coastal areas of Counties Cork and Kerry
  • From 09:00: Remaining parts of Munster
  • From 12:00: South Leinster and Galway
  • From 13:00 Dublin and remaining Leinster
  • From 15:00 North Connacht and Ulster

Ophelia is the most powerful Atlantic storm this far east on record packing "violent, destructive" gusts of over 130 kilometres per hour.

Heavy rain, storm surges and flooding are likely in coastal areas - and the entire country has been placed on the highest state of alert.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged people to stay indoors today.

He said: "Public safety is our key concern today. Advice is to stay at home, no unnecessary travel or other outdoor activities."

The National Emergency Coordination Group has advised people to stay at home, and no unnecessary travel or other outdoor activities should be undertaken.

They said that all schools, colleges and childcare facilities will be closed.

They have also advised people to secure any garden furniture, bins and other outdoor equipment before the storm hits.

The decision was taken following a special meeting of the government task force on emergency planning.

Drivers of high sided vehicles are being advised to avoid travel during the height of the winds tomorrow due to the extreme danger posed by gale force winds.

Irish Defence Forces are on standby to deploy resources, including transport and engineering assets.

Public safety advice

Members of the public are advised to remain indoors for the duration of the storm – and to avoid all unnecessary travel while the storm is passing.

“Very strong winds” are expected to make driving conditions hazardous, especially for vulnerable road users - including cyntonsts, pedestrians and motorcyclists.

Power outages are likely to occur in certain parts of the country.

The public is urged to stay away from fallen cables that may have broken due to the high winds.

People are asked to check in with isolated or vulnerable neighbours ahead of the storm’s arrival – and again once the worst of the weather has passed.

Closures

Mail delivery and collection services have been suspended everywhere except for counties: Dublin, Meath, Westmeath, Leitrim, Louth, Longford, Cavan, Roscommon and Monaghan where services will cease by 12 noon.

Post Office services are currently operating as normal where it is safe to remain open.

Coillte has closed all their forests across the country and no public access is permitted to any Coillte Forests until further notice.

They have asked the public to be vigilant of fallen trees and to contact emergency services if any roads or access routes are blocked by fallen trees.

Dublin Chamber has called on employers to minimise the need for their staff to travel today.

The Chamber said: "While red alert warnings remain in place, businesses should take necessary steps to ensure that their staff remain safe."

Brown Thomas in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and at their BT2 stores will remain closed today.

Penneys have all of their stores in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and their head office.

All Tesco Ireland stores are also closed.

Banks across the country, including Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB, have closed all their branches and business centres. Their telephone, Online Banking, Mobile Banking and ATM services will all still be available.

The Construction Industry Federation is urging its members to "minimise the movement of employees today".

The CIF said that for the duration of the red status weather warning, members of the public should avoid building sites.

Jurors summonsed to appear for jury duty this morning should not attend at courts until tomorrow Tuesday.

Only one district court will sit in Dublin' criminal courts, to deal with matters for people in custody, all other courts in the country are postponed today.

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.

Emergency departments will remain open throughout storm Ophelia, but people are being advised only to turn up in cases of genuine emergencies.

The Irish Medical Organisation is asking patients to avoid using GP services unless absolutely necessary.

The HSE in the Mid West has cancelled all their non-essential services today.

They said: "All non-essential Community Healthcare services will not operate today and the majority of our local buildings are closed. All residential and emergency services will operate as normal and to the best of our capability in the expected storm force conditions. Our colleagues at UL Hospitals have restricted all services to emergency with ED and Local Injury Units operating. Ambulance services are as normal for emergency work.

Bernard Gloster, Chief Officer HSE Mid West Community Healthcare, said: "Our Crisis Management Team for the HSE in the Mid West comprising all services was convened yesterday and remains on alert. Our advice to the public is to stay indoors, restrict travel to absolute essential and consider anyone around you who might be particularly vulnerable."

For HSE services in the Mid West follow updates on local media and on Twitter @BernardGloster or @ULHospitals or @HSELive or @colettecowan1.

Private Hospitals across Ireland are open and prioritising urgent cases today.

They are also on stand-by to assist the emergency services and wider health system if any extraordinary pressures arise due to Ophelia.

Patients with appointments scheduled for todayand tomorrow should contact their hospital if they have any questions about their planned treatment.

Hospitals that have decided to postpone treatments and out-patient appointments will be contacting all affected patients directly.

They said: " We are encouraging patients to follow national travel advice and not to travel where weather conditions may create risks. In these circumstances treatment will be rescheduled."

The country's top three sites the Guinness Storehouse, Cliffs of Moher and Dublin Zoo are shut, while the Office of Public Works says all its attractions are shut.

The Guinness Storehouse said they will open as normal tomorrow and any tickets purchased for today may be redeemed then.

Greyhound has postponed all waste collections scheduled for today. All collections scheduled for today will now take this coming Saturday, October 21.

The bin company is advising customers to pull their bins in and place them in a safe place where they are not at risk of being blown away.

Donegal County Council will close its offices for all non-essential services from 12.45pm today.

The Council may be contacted on the following numbers 074 9153900 until 5pm, and 074 9172288 after 5pm.

Life threatening emergencies should be reported to the emergency services on 999 or 112.

Mayo County Council have cancelled their day-to-day services.

They have warned that coastal areas pose a very high risk at this time from wind and high seas, and are asking the public to exercise extreme caution in these areas.

A Core Staff will remain in place in the following offices:

Aras an Chontae, Castlebar 09490244444

Westport 09850400

Ballina 09676100

Claremorris 0949371508

Belmullet 09781004

Wicklow County Council’s severe weather co-ordination group has decided to close all non-essential Council services including: libraries, civic amenity centres, civic playgrounds/skateparks, motor tax, planning department etc.

The public is asked to stay away from these centres.

In relation to services for the homeless, Fassaroe Community Centre is open today with volunteer staff. Five Loaves Bray is working and will provide meals etc. Any costs associated with this will be borne by Wicklow County Council.

The Peter McVerry Trust has put a provision in place across the region to assist rough sleepers.

They have designated a number of sites in Dublin city and also Michael Garry House in Newbridge, Co Kildare, as part of the emergency response.

Urgent calls can be directed to Wicklow County Council on 0404 20100 or after 5pm on 01 2916 117.

Cork City Council has decided to suspend public services today at the following locations:

Cork City Hall

Public libraries

Civic Amenity site at Kinsale Road

Swimming pools

Public Parks

Cemeteries

Alan Healy of ther Evening Echo newspaper in Cork has said that the Cross River Ferry in lower Cork Harbour is suspended.

Emergency crews will be on standby throughout the day and City Council staff are being deployed to deal with the expected issues.

Normal services are expected to resume tomorrow.

In Limerick, all parks have been closed while flood defences have been engaged around the city's quays and boardwalks in case of localised flooding.

Nova's homeless shelters and emergency accommodation services are remaining open.

University Hospital Limerick has cancelled all elective surgeries and clinics, but their Emergency Department is still open 24/7.

Troy Studios film and production house in Castletroy, will remain closed all day.

Limerick's Live 95fm are reporting that at least three funerals cancelled in Limerick for health and safety reasons.

In Kerry there are no more sandbags available, Kerry council’s director of services Charlie O’Sullivan says.

The council’s emergency number is 066 7183588 to report road closures.

The Valentia coastguard stationmaster, John Draper, has said the tops of waves are going to come over the 200ft cliff at the coastguard station.

Clare County Council has set up an Emergency Helpline (1890-252943) to deal with requests for assistance from the public in relation to fallen trees, blocked roads, flooding and other non-life threatening incidences.

Council building in the county - including all Local Authority public buildings and facilities, Áras Contae an Chláir, Area Offices, Civic Amenity sites, leisure facilities, library branches and visitor attractions - will close from 11am.

Transport - bus

Bus Éireann has cancelled all services nationwide for the day due to the national Status Red weather alert.

The are planning to run a full schedule of services from tomorrow morning at 5am.

This includes all Bus Éireann services, the Expressway network, School Transport Scheme, Eurolines and GoBE services.

Some School Transport Scheme services – which travel on minor roads – could be curtailed tomorrow morning or diverted due to flooding or fallen trees.

Dublin Bus has said that they expect to operate morning peak services as normal, but here will be significant disruption to services between 9am and 6pm.

This may include no services being available during this time.

However, customers should be aware that services may experience delays and disruptions to service and service levels will be dependent on weather conditions.

The transport company said they will update their website, www.dublinbus.ie, regularly.

Customers can also get updates on their Twitter account; @dublinbusnews or call our customer service line on (01) 8734222.

Transport - rail

The Luas Red and Green Line services have been cancelled from 10am today. There will be no tram service from around midday for the rest of the day.

Normal service will resume tomorrow.

All Heuston and regional routes have been suspended, all Connolly routes including DART and commuter services will be suspended from 2pm.

All remaining departures for today on all routes - DART, Dublin Commuter, Intercity, Cork Commuter and Regional - are now suspended for the remainder of today, due to weather warnings for Hurricane Ophelia.

The following services are running at present and will complete their journeys to their destinations to/from Connolly:

12:35 Belfast Connolly

13:20 Connolly Belfast

12:55 Rosslare Connolly

13:36 Connolly Rosslare

13:00 Sligo Connolly

13:05 Connolly Sligo

All later services are suspended for the rest of the day.

They plan to resume services from first trains tomorrow on all routes, depending on any fallen trees, debris or other damage being cleared from lines, and it being safe to resume.

Customers with tickets for today's services who decided not to travel today, or whose services was cancelled as a result of the storm, will be able to claim full refunds.

No later services will operate to/from Connolly until further notice.

Transport - air and sea

Dublin Airport and Shannon Airport have advised passengers to check the latest flight information before travelling to the airport.

There are no further departures from Cork Airport today.

Cork Airport’s Head of Communications, Kevin Cullinane said: "Limited flights did depart this morning, but some flights have been cancelled throughout the day and passengers flying later today are advised to check their airline for updates as further cancellations and delays are imminent."

Aer Lingus says it has had to cancel a large number of flights today, and is asking passengers to check their flight status via aerlingus.com.

The airline says people can rebook flights on another date free of charge or get a full refund.

Ryanair have said a number of flights are cancelled due to the severe weather.

All Irish Ferries and Stena Line sailings have been cancelled today.


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