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'Danger to life' Schools to close in seven counties as Met Eireann issue second Status Red alert

  • Schools to close in seven counties tomorrow
  • Further and higher education colleges in seven counties also closing
  • Department of Education said online teaching and learning should take place where possible
  • A Status Red warning means there is a ‘potential danger to life’
  • Weather warning is valid from 3am tomorrow until 8am
  • Wind gusts expected to reach close to 140kmh in some exposed coastal areas with sustained, average gusts of 80kmh in many other areas

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Cathy Mulcahy-Costelloe and Marianna Stockwell braving the high winds in Clontarf, Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren

Cathy Mulcahy-Costelloe and Marianna Stockwell braving the high winds in Clontarf, Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren

Cathy Mulcahy-Costelloe and Marianna Stockwell braving the high winds in Clontarf, Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren

Schools in Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, and Roscommon will close tomorrow because of Storm Eunice.

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

Where schools close, the department said online teaching and learning should take place where possible, in line with schools’ remote teaching and learning plans.

The second named storm this week is set to bring blizzard-like conditions with heavy snowfall, destructive winds, heavy rain and a risk of flooding.

School bus services in the affected counties have been cancelled.

“Storm Eunice will track quickly over Ireland tonight and Friday morning bringing severe and damaging winds,” the Met Eireann advisory reads.

“Southwest winds veering northwest will reach mean speeds in excess of 80 km/h with gusts in excess of 130 km/h. Some coastal flooding, especially at high tide,” it states.

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

School boards of management have the authority to make decisions themselves on health and safety grounds.

However, formal guidance followed a meeting today of the National Emergency Coordination Committee, at which the Department of Education was represented.

The decision was also taken to extend the closures to the five counties in the north west, where snow leading to blizzard-like conditions in parts with treacherous driving conditions is forecast between 3am and 3pm tomorrow.

The Department of Education has advised that all other counties may open schools, subject to local conditions. That does open the possibilities that some schools elsewhere could close.

The Indo Daily: Come rain or shine – why are we so obsessed with weather?

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The department said schools should have regard to the guidance on the winterready.ie website on safe opening.

It has also advised all schools to keep up-to-date with the current weather warnings which are carried on all national and local news bulletins and in particular any change in the status warning for their area.

The Department noted that storm is expected to impact most during school commuting hours and making journeys to school extremely hazardous in the morning in those areas.

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People walk past flooding defences on the seafront in Clontarf this afternoon in advance of Storm Eunice, which is due to roll across the country from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

People walk past flooding defences on the seafront in Clontarf this afternoon in advance of Storm Eunice, which is due to roll across the country from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

People walk past flooding defences on the seafront in Clontarf this afternoon in advance of Storm Eunice, which is due to roll across the country from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Cork, Kerry, Clare, and Waterford are also subject to Status Red wind warnings.

Met Éireann has warned that there is a risk of coastal flooding in these counties, especially at high tide.

A Status Red warning is valid from 3am on Friday until 8am in each of the above counties except Waterford, where Met Eireann issued a separate red warning which is in place from 7am until 11am.

Meanwhile, Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Galway, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Wexford, Wicklow, and all of Munster are covered by a Status Orange wind warning from 3am on Friday until 11am that day.

And a Status Orange snow warning is in place for Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, and Roscommon from 3am until 3pm Friday.

The entire country is under a Status Yellow snow and wind warning from 1am until 3pm tomorrow, with "some disruption" likely.

Met Éireann has advised people to prepare for power outages with gusts in excess of 130kmh forecast.

All universities, colleges and further education facilities in the seven counties have also been advised to close for the duration of the warnings.

However, they may exercise discretion to re-open once the relevant weather warnings are lifted and it is considered safe to do so.

The Department of Further and Higher Education said their “plans in this regard should be communicated and confirmed locally.

Fallen power lines and trees, and other storm damage is likely as a result.

Cork and Kerry will bear the initial brunt of Storm Eunice's fury.

Wind gusts are 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 Friday lunchtime.

A Status Red storm warning means there is a potential danger to life, Met Éireann forecaster Gerry Murphy has warned.

“The red warning will be kicking in for Cork and Kerry from 2am and then those very strong northwesterly winds extend to all of the country as we go through the early morning and through the mid-morning and the strongest of those will be over the southern half of the country,” he said.

“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.

“If we think back to Storm Ophelia 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.”

Mr Murphy said the worst of the storm will be over by noon tomorrow, as it will be “a very short sharp hit in all areas for a time".

Gardaí issued a special warning to people not to attempt to take selfies during the height of the storm - and to stay away from exposed coastal areas such as piers, cliffs and high-span bridges.

Such was the violence of Storm Eunice's winds that fishing fleets fled to the safety of ports across Cork, Kerry and Waterford by Thursday afternoon.

The National Emergency Coordination Group met at lunchtime while councils in all Status Red and Status Orange-impacted counties held emergency planning meetings.

Cork City and County Councils as well as Kerry Co Council confirmed they have emergency repair crews and contractors on standby.

The ESB also has repair crews ready but warned they can only begin work on any storm-related damage once it is safe to do so.

Concerns over the impact of Storm Eunice have 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 is 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.

Cork City Council's Flood Assessment team staged an emergency meeting to examine the threat of Storm Eunice and decided that city homes and businesses faced no major flood threat.

The council urged people to pay attention to weather bulletins and updates from City Hall.

However, motorists were warned to avoid parking overnight along low lying quays as some storm surge may occur with resultant spot flooding.

Cork Fire Brigade urged people to take extreme care.

"We should also think of our neighbours, elderly people in particular, that may need a bit of support if there are power outages," Cork Fire Brigade second officer Victor Shine said.

"People might be grateful to receive some boiled water or warm food."

He said neighbours should also show support to any householder whose property may have been damaged and may need assistance until their home is safe and secured.

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Swimmer Lynn Feeney prepares to swim as storm clouds gather in Clontarf this afternoon in advance of Storm Eunice, which is due to roll across the country from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Swimmer Lynn Feeney prepares to swim as storm clouds gather in Clontarf this afternoon in advance of Storm Eunice, which is due to roll across the country from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Swimmer Lynn Feeney prepares to swim as storm clouds gather in Clontarf this afternoon in advance of Storm Eunice, which is due to roll across the country from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

A storm is classed as a weather bomb once it undergoes explosive cyclogenesis and its pressure drops rapidly, by at least 24 hectopascals in 24 hours – which Eunice is expected to far exceed.

The following safety advice has been issued:

  • Shelter in Place for the duration of Red Level Warnings.
  • Stay away from all coastal areas for the duration of the Met Éireann warnings.
  • Secure all garden furniture and tented or temporary structures2.
  • Necessary travel only in Orange conditions - All road users should be aware of the hazardous traveling conditions. Motorists should slow down and be aware of the dangers of fallen trees, electricity cables and debris. High sided vehicles, cyclists and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable during this time.
  • Keep mobile phone charged.
  • It is critical that people never ever touch or approach fallen wires, stay safe and stay clear of fallen or damage electricity wires, and contact ESB Networks on 1800 372999.

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