The National Emergency Coordination Group met today (Sunday, 15 October 2017) in anticipation of the arrival of Storm Ophelia.
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is designated as the Lead Government Department for coordinating the response to severe weather emergencies at national level.
The Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) Severe Weather Team has been meeting daily and working with Met Éireann, local authorities and other Government Departments and agencies since Thursday 12 October to review information regarding the storm and its predicted trajectory and intensity.
Updated information received from Met Éireann on Friday, 13 October regarding the trajectory of the storm has identified the issues facing the country as being severe wind, coastal surge and heavy rainfall, with the potential for this to be a life threatening event with the likelihood of significant destruction in worst affected areas.
This has driven the decision to hold the National Emergency Coordination Group meeting today. The objective of the meeting was to bring all Government Departments together to review and disseminate the latest information regarding the storm, review the current national preparedness arrangements and to formulate public safety messaging in anticipation of the storm reaching Ireland.
The NDFEM contacted all local authorities on Friday 13 October advising them to activate their severe weather teams. These teams continue to be briefed by the NDFEM regarding Storm Ophelia and continue to prepare for this anticipated wind and potential flood damage through Local Coordination Group meetings.
Monday will see stormy conditions as Ex-Hurricane Ophelia moves up over the country. It is expected to arrive in Kerry for 6am on Monday. Gale to storm force southerly winds will occur with severe and damaging gusts - winds strongest along southern counties with the risk of storm surge here, along with very high seas. Structural damage is possible anywhere and these are life-threatening conditions.
Rain will be widespread also, with the heaviest falls likely to occur in Atlantic coastal counties. Localised flooding is possible with thundery falls. The winds will veer southwesterly as the low pressure system tracks northwards over western parts of the country. Highest temperatures will range 15 to 19 degrees Celsius.
The storm front will track northwards on Monday night, exiting Irish coastal waters before midnight. Rain will gradually become confined to the west Connacht and west Ulster coasts and it will become dry in many parts with clear spells. Strong to gale force and gusty southwesterly winds will gradually abate.
Currently, there are Red level wind warnings in place for Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Limerick, Galway and Mayo. The rest of the country is covered by an Orange level wind warning and there are rainfall warnings in place for the country although this will vary.
Key Public Safety & Information Messages
· All unnecessary travel should be avoided on Monday, while the storm is passing..
· Don’t travel in Red level warning areas during the height of the storm unless absolutely necessary, and take due care if travelling in all other areas. Listen to local radio and national media broadcasts regarding the current weather situation.
· High seas predicted, the public are advised to stay away from coastal areas during this period.
· Very strong winds are predicted making driving conditions hazardous, especially for the more vulnerable road users, e.g., cyclists, pedestrian’s, motorcyclist and high sided vehicles. Road users should pay particular attention to the risk posed by fallen trees and flying debris.
· Given anticipated weather conditions, tomorrow should be a no bike day.
· Power outages are likely to occur in certain parts of the country, with contingency planning activated by the ESB. The ESB is advising the public to stay away from fallen cables that may have broken due to the high winds. ESB Emergency Services can be contacted at 1850372999.
· Bus Éireann’s schools transport services will not be operating in counties covered by Red level warnings. Because of the duty of care owed to children and to avoid the risk arising from travelling, the Department of Education and Skills is instructing all schools to act on the Department‘s advice and remain closed. Crèches and Montessori facilities should also remain closed tomorrow.
· People are asked to check in on isolated and vulnerable neighbours today in advance of the oncoming severe weather conditions and again after the worst of the event has passed.
· People are advised to remove patio furniture, rubbish bins and any loose items from around buildings, which can be turned into missiles by the wind.
The public are again reminded to monitor Met Éireann forecasts for their area and to be aware of the weather conditions and to heed safety warnings. Information is available across social media platforms and other traditional media sources.
The National Emergency Coordination Group is monitoring the situation and will meet again tomorrow morning, 16 October, to monitor the developing situation.