Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Northern Ireland hurricane chaos

Homes left without power, ferries cancelled, and roads strewn with branches in a day of chaos caused by the storm that refused to die

The Coast Road Carrickfergus, as the waves crashes over the walls.Northern Ireland is being battered with extreme weather conditions as the tail end of Hurricane Katia sweeps across the Atlantic.
George Brown was killed when a tree hit the vehicle he was driving in high winds (Butterwick Hospice/PA)
Hurricane Katia as seen from International Space Station

Hurricane Katia brought travel chaos and power cuts to Northern Ireland yesterday.

The tropical storm battered several parts of the province, causing widespread disruption to ferry and rail services and leading to hazardous conditions for motorists in some of the worst weather conditions seen in years.

The Met Office issued an amber warning, advising that winds could reach speeds of up to 75mph last night. They predicted the gales would ease overnight.

The disruption affected most parts of Northern Ireland but counties Londonderry, Antrim and Tyrone were worst-hit.

Last night around 700 homes experienced electricity failures as falling tree branches and other debris cut power supplies in some areas. A number of electricity poles were also damaged by the storm.

By late last night 150 homes were still without electricity.

A Northern Ireland Electricity spokesman said he was confident the power supply would be returned to all homes before the end of the night.

Houses in Belfast, Coleraine, Craigavon, Downpatrick and Dungannon were affected by the electricity outages last night, and a number of homes in Ballymena and Castlewellan also experienced power cuts yesterday afternoon.

The NIE spokesman said these were “isolated faults” which were being promptly dealt with.

He said staff had been on alert since 6am yesterday with extra staff, including engineers and call-handlers, on stand-by in preparation for any problems.

As well as the power cuts, the storm caused a number of other disruptions across Northern Ireland yesterday.

  • In Ballintoy a catering marquee being used on the set of the television series Game Of Thrones was ripped into the air.
  • The Foyle Bridge in Derry was closed to high-sided vehicles with a 40mph speed limit for smaller vehicles and cars.
  • All P&O fast-craft sailings were cancelled.
  • Stena Line sailings between Belfast and Stranraer were disrupted.
  • Rathlin ferry sailings were suspended.
  • Motorists were advised to drive with extra care following multiple reports of falling branches and trees.
  • Winds of 74mph were recorded in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.
  • Fishing boats were advised to return to port.

Just days ago Hurricane Katia was causing chaos in the US before travelling across the Atlantic and being downgraded to tropical storm status. Katia was the second major hurricane of the season and was rated as category four on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale at its peak.

The storm also caused chaos in the Republic — where thousands of homes had their power cut — and across much of the UK.

The highest Irish gust of 137kmh was recorded on Arranmore Island in Co Donegal, where three schools were forced to close for the day.

More than 13,000 homes in six different counties had electricity cuts — half of them in Donegal.

Meanwhile, in England, the driver of a hospice ambulance died and his passenger was badly injured after a falling tree hit their vehicle on the A688 in County Durham. Nearby, a collapsed roof crushed a dozen cars.

On the north coast, Golf star Darren Clarke told his online Twitter followers he was unable to practise due to the wild weather.

The Open champion said: “Not much practice today at Royal Portrush...blowing at 70mph!! #cantstandup.”

Gary Hunt from NI Kitesurfing, based in Millisle, said fans of the extreme sport were kept from their fun by the wild weather conditions.

“Conditions are just too tough to go out in,” he said. “We can teach students up to 30mph but anything above that just isn’t safe.”

Alistair Mawhinney, deputy launching authority at Larne RNLI, said people had opted to stay in due to the severe gales and choppy seas.

“I think anyone with any sense is lying low and those who are out are taking refuge,” he said. “All the professionals are not sailing.”

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