Forecasters have warned the storm will prove a varied, complex, powerful and unusual weather event.
Householders, motorists and pedestrians are being warned that the vast Storm Barra ‘weather bomb’ represents a potential threat to life with violent wind gusts of up to 140kmh.
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Cork, Clare and Kerry residents were urged to shelter indoors and safely away from exposed coastal areas – and not to undertake any form of travel until Storm Barra passes.
The Cork and Kerry alerts begin at 6am with the final status red alert not expected to be lifted before 1am on Wednesday.
“To be very clear, there should be no travel and no movement outside of buildings during the status red alert,” National Emergency Coordination Group chairman Keith Leonard warned.
Schools, colleges, universities and community centres across the 12 counties impacted by status red and orange alerts have been advised not to open amid public safety concerns.
Bus services across Cork and Kerry have been cancelled.
Cork City Hall’s major Covid-19 vaccination centre as well as vaccination centres in Kerry and Clare also closed for the duration of the storm.
Outpatient and inpatient appointments at Cork University Hospital, Bantry General Hospital and Mallow General Hospital were cancelled for today. Court sittings, including ongoing jury trials, were suspended given the weather alert.
A number of shops closed across the south-west with disruption expected to both travel links and power supplies.
Popular visitor attractions such as Fota Wildlife Park closed for the day, while ferry links across Cork, Clare and Kerry were temporarily suspended.
The Cliffs of Moher, in Co Clare, and Johnstown Castle, in Co Wexford, confirmed closures while Dublin Zoo said its Wild Lights events would not go ahead today.
Cork Airport cancelled a number of early-morning flights to London and Amsterdam but urged passengers to check with their airlines on the status of flights later in the day.
Status Yellow alerts are in place for all other Irish counties amid fears Storm Barra will deliver a major storm surge which, at high tide, could result in coastal flooding from Galway to Cork and Waterford.
The threat posed by the second Atlantic storm of the season is exacerbated by the fact its impact over Ireland will last for almost a full 24 hours – increasing the ‘weather bomb’ potential for structural damage, fallen trees and flooding.
Torrential rainfall is expected between 6am and 12 noon. The storm is so vast that its eye could extend over several Irish counties as it passes through into tomorrow.
All maritime craft from Mizen Head to Loop Head and Slyne Head face a status red alert until 11pm tomorrow.
Ireland’s fishing fleet had already raced to port ahead of the arrival of Storm Barra.
The storm was due to make landfall on Ireland’s west and south west coast from 6am – and Met Éireann warned yesterday that winds and heavy rain could last up to 24 hours.
The Coast Guard appealed to people to put public safety first.
“We are appealing to all mariners and coastal communities to be mindful of the severe weather warnings and to note the imminent arrival of Storm Barra,” ICG operation manager Micheál O’Toole said.
“Walkers are advised to avoid any exposed areas, including seafront and cliff walkways, as they may be hit by sudden gusts, exposing themselves to unnecessary danger. All other forms of open-water recreation should be avoided.”
The storm surge flooding concern centres on Galway, Limerick and Cork. Cork City Council warned city centre residents and traders of the risk posed by flooded quays if the storm surge coincides with high tide at 7am.
Council chiefs in all 12 status red and status orange counties staged emergency meetings to assess the potential impact of the storm.
All triggered their crisis management teams while local coordination groups were working to assess defence mechanisms in the most vulnerable coastal areas.
Gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) urged people to adhere to safety warnings.
Greatest concern is focused on the potential threat posed by fallen trees. Wind gusts could reach 140kmh in Cork and Kerry while sustained wind speeds of up to 80kmh are likely in many other areas.
Met Éireann’s Evelyn Cusack warned that Storm Barra will prove a varied, complex, powerful and unusual weather event.
“It will last for a fairly long time – from early Tuesday morning into Tuesday night and Wednesday morning,” she said yesterday.
“Conditions will vary from place to place but countrywide it will be very bad on Tuesday morning with heavy rain and winds.”