'weather bomb' | 

Council worker dies after being hit by falling tree while clearing debris during Storm Eunice

Cork and Kerry to bear initial brunt of storm

18/2/22 Storm Eunice scenes at Dun Laoghaire Pier this afternoon Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Joseph O’Sullivan yesterday evening securing the anchor lines for his mussel dredging boat in Cromane Harbour on Dingle Bay, Co Kerry. Photo: Don MacMonagle

High tides and Storm Eunice are due on the west coast today, with massive waves pounding the 60ft high cliffs at Doolin, Co Clare, yesterday. Photo: Press 22

Ralph Riegel, Eoghan Moloney, Padraig Byrne, Paul Hyland and Katherine Donnelly

A council worker (50s) has been killed after he was struck by a falling tree while out clearing debris caused by Storm Eunice.

The man was working to clear debris caused by Storm Eunice in the Ballythomas area when the incident occurred late this morning. Aged in his 50s, the man and a colleague were clearing trees when another came down in the strong winds, fatally injuring him.

In a statement, Wexford County Council confirmed the news saying: “It is with deep regret and sadness that Wexford County Council confirms that one of our employees was fatally injured earlier today in a workplace accident. The accident occurred as the employee attended the scene of a fallen tree in the North Wexford area.

“The employee’s family, An Garda Síochána and the Health and Safety Authority have been informed.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the employee’s family, work colleagues and friends at this very difficult time.”

Gardaí and emergency services attended the scene but the man was later pronounced dead and the man’s body was transferred to Waterford University Hospital where a post-mortem will take place in due course.

The incident is being investigated by Gardaí and they confirmed the Health and Safety Authority will also be carrying out an investigation into the fatality.

The man is the first known casualty to have occurred during Storm Eunice, a weather bomb event that left tens of thousands of homes without power and caused widespread damage, disruption and closures on Friday.

More than 80,000 homes nationwide are without power as the Storm Eunice ‘weather bomb’ lands in Ireland, causing severe disruption and significant damage across much of the country.

Red wind and orange snow warnings left schools, colleges and banks closed in nine counties this morning.

Gusts of over 130km/h, have caused damage to the electricity network, affecting homes, farms and businesses.

The ESB said the damage is mainly attributable to fallen trees on overhead lines as a result of the high winds.

It has confirmed that, so far, the damage has been most extensive in West Cork and Kerry, with most impacted areas including Kilgarvan, Caherciveen, Milltown, Bandon, Bantry, Ballydehob and Dunmanway.

Further east, power outages have occurred in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, and Wexford town.

With strong winds still crossing the south of the country, the ESB said more damage and interruptions to supply can be expected.

It has reminded the public to “never, ever touch or approach fallen overhead lines as they are live and extremely dangerous”.

An ESB Networks spokesperson said all available resources are being deployed to respond to all electricity outages once it is safe to do so.

“With the worst of the storm in the southwest abating, crews have now safely mobilised and repair work has commenced,” confirmed the spokesperson. “They will work through this afternoon into this evening restoring as many customers without power as possible. However, with a yellow wind and rain warning in place nationwide until 6pm, poor weather conditions may hamper crews in restoring power.

“As it stands, ESB Networks are working towards having power restored to the majority of customers impacted by tonight. However, such is the damage to the electricity network in the southwest, it is likely that there will be some customers in South Kerry and West Cork without power overnight.”

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The spokesperson added that if a member of the public comes across a fallen power line "do not go near it" and report the hazard to the ESB contact centre on 1800 372 999.

The storm made landfall over Clare, Kerry and Cork in the early hours of the morning – with a Status Red alert in place there from 3am until 8am.

Waterford came under a Status Red alert from 7am.

Thousands of other homes across Donegal, Mayo, Offaly, Roscommon, Wexford and Waterford also lost power in localised outages.

However, there have been no reports so far of major coastal flooding in vulnerable low-lying towns and cities.

Bus Éireann confirmed that their coach services in Cork and Kerry returned to normal scheduled times from10am. However, due to the impact of Storm Eunice there will be some limited cancellations

The entire country has been placed under yellow wind, snow and rain warnings from 1am – while red-wind warnings for Cork, Kerry, Clare and Waterford took effect at 3am.

Orange snow and wind warnings across much of the country also came into force at 3am as Met Éireann predicted “blizzard-like conditions” for many, especially across Ulster and Connacht.

Met Éireann has updated it’s yellow weather warning of snow and ice for the entire country that will last until 10am on Saturday morning.

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Cork County Council confirmed that both Storm Eunice's sea surge and high tide passed in west Cork without major coastal flooding, particularly in flood-prone Bantry.

High tide passed in Bantry without flooding or any major property damage. Flood pumps were activated for approximately 15 minutes and this was sufficient to lower the level until water levels peaked before 6am.

The N71 in the Main Square in Bantry was due to remain closed until 08.30am, depending on local conditions.

The Council’s Severe Weather Assessment Team and Crisis Management Team were due to convene as updates were received in relation to any incidents across the county.

The M8 Dublin-Cork motorway had been closed early this morning, between junctions 14 and 15, due to high winds. It is due to reopen if conditions allow.

Flood barriers have been erected in Fermoy as a precaution, with demountable barriers erected at Brian Boru Square Slipway, Thomas Street and at the Sub Aqua Club on the Rathealy Road.

These barriers are all located offline with minimal impact on road users.

On the River Blackwater, Longfields Bridge (R621) and the bridge in Killavullen, Co Cork, are both closed.

Cork County Council continues to advise road users to be aware of the danger posed by high winds and road flooding.

Civic amenity sites had been closed but were due to reopen at 12.30pm today..

Schools and colleges in counties Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Clare and Waterford will remain closed for the duration of the weather warnings, while parts of Waterford city and Dungarvan were closed to the public due to fears of flooding.

The decision was taken following a meeting yesterday of the National Emergency Co-ordination Committee.

Storm Eunice is known as a weather bomb due to its rapidly decreasing pressure in a short period of time, leading to snowfall, high winds and heavy rain. Fallen power lines and trees, and other storm damage is likely as a result.

Cork and Kerry was expected to bear the initial brunt of Storm Eunice’s fury. Wind gusts were expected to reach close to 140kmh in some exposed coastal areas with sustained, average gusts of 80kmh in many other areas.

The winds are expected to ease by lunchtime.

A Status Red storm warning means lives are potentially in peril, Met Éireann forecaster Gerry Murphy warned.

“What red means is that there is a danger to life. That is a quite dramatic statement but what it means is if you are going out in that weather, you are putting your life at risk because the winds are so strong there is a potential for significant fallen trees, significant debris from buildings that may not be all that secure and significant hazards due to the potential of fallen trees, especially if someone is driving,” he said.

“If we think back to Storm Ophelia (2017), we had the tragic loss of life of three people all due to fallen trees during that storm, so red warning basically means stay at home.”

High tides and Storm Eunice are due on the west coast today, with massive waves pounding the 60ft high cliffs at Doolin, Co Clare, yesterday. Photo: Press 22

The general advice to schools in Status Red areas was to consider not opening where a warning related to wind is forecast to coincide with the periods during which students and staff would be expected to travel to and from school.

The decision was also taken to extend the closures to the five counties in the north-west, where snow will lead to blizzard-like conditions in parts with treacherous driving conditions forecast today.

The Department of Education has advised that all other counties may open schools, subject to local conditions. However, this opens the possibility that some schools elsewhere could close.

Where schools do close, the department said online teaching and learning should take place where possible, in line with schools’ remote teaching and learning plans. School bus services in the affected counties have been cancelled.

Meanwhile, HSE Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor says the Health Service is "hoping" not to cancel any procedures today due to the storm.

Ms O'Connor said hospitals across the country are working under the assumption that some patients may be late for appointments and are planning accordingly.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland – from University Hospital Kerry – she said people who are late for appointments will be facilitated.

"We're not consciously cancelling anything down here. I know that up in the mid-west, services are also continuing in Limerick and Tipperary, but in Clare there are cancellations to scheduled appointments in the community and in the hospital in Ennis.

"But overall, we are trying to continue to provide services. The last thing we want after the couple of years we've had is to cancel more scheduled care if we can avoid it."

Ms O'Connor said hospitals expect some delays for staff who are making their way into work, and patients will have to "bear with us" at times.

Nine Aer Lingus flights scheduled for today were cancelled from Dublin and Cork airports due to anticipated high winds here and in the UK.

Flights to Amsterdam, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester have been cancelled, with Aer Lingus saying further disruption was possible.

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Gas Networks Ireland has suspended planned work in Co Waterford today due to the potential threat of Storm Eunice.

The organisation said it has temporarily suspended all works, except for emergency repairs, in Waterford while the Status Red weather warnings are in place.

The alert for Waterford was in place until 11am today. Gas Networks said customer appointments scheduled during this time would be rescheduled and appointments will be rearranged for the coming days.

Works in orange and yellow-alert areas are currently scheduled to take place as normal, but the organisation said its teams will assess conditions locally and may defer some work if required for safety reasons.

"Irrespective of what alerts are in place, our emergency services continue to operate as normal. If you smell gas at home or on the street, please call 1800 20 50 50 immediately,” the company said in a statement.

“As the operator of Ireland’s gas network, we would like to reassure our 710,000 customers that it does not anticipate any disruption to gas supplies during Storm Eunice.”

AIB Group had closed its branches, along with EBS branches, in areas impacted by red and orange warnings until 1pm.

Driving conditions were expected to be treacherous in the northwest, west and north midlands until 3pm. This was due to the likelihood of lying snow and poor visibility from snow and sleet, along with winds of up to 130kmh. Gardaí issued a special warning to people not to attempt to take selfies during the height of the storm.

They also warned people to stay away from exposed coastal areas such as piers, cliffs and high-span bridges.

Such was the violence of Storm Eunice’s winds, fishing fleets that were out at sea fled to the safety of ports across Cork, Kerry and Waterford by yesterday afternoon.

Concerns over the impact of Storm Eunice had been heightened by fears its 140kmh wind gusts may bring down trees already weakened by Storm Dudley just 48 hours before.

Householders were urged to take precautions by securing all outdoor furniture and leisure items such as trampolines and goal posts.

Gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) as well as council officials warned that the greatest threat was likely from fallen trees and flying debris.

Motorists have been urged not to drive during the Status Red alert – and to exercise extreme caution even when the Status Red is lifted because of the danger posed by weakened trees.

Waterford city and county council was last night erecting all appropriate flood-defence barriers and the situation was being actively monitored.

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