80mph winds cause havoc across Northern Ireland as year ends with a blast
Weather havoc gripped Northern Ireland yesterday as gale force winds of almost 80mph tore across the province, with the North West worst affected.
The fastest gusts of 79mph were recorded at Eglinton Airport and caused severe damage to the village's Christmas tree, which was left broken and twisted.
The stormy weather and high winds also threatened a popular animal sanctuary in the Co Londonderry village.
Four trees had to be removed yesterday after one cracked in the wind and broke the fence at the Rainbow Rehoming Centre.
"There was a bit of damage to the cattery," said Joanne Mullan from the centre.
"I heard a loud crack and one of the trees had come down.
"The main animal shelter is an old Second World War building. If the trees had fallen on it, it wouldn't have taken the pressure."
The Foyle Bridge in Londonderry was also closed to high-sided vehicles for a while due to concerns they could be overturned.
The severe gales also fanned flames during a fire at a Londonderry GAA club, making it more dangerous for firefighters to bring it under control.
A Translink spokesman said trains on the Londonderry and Portrush lines had to slow down for a while to cope with the treacherous conditions.
As the waves crashed on the beach at Portrush, Mark Street was closed to traffic and pedestrians when scaffolding from a building tumbled into the street.
A tree also blocked the road between the Magherafelt and Castledawson roundabout at around 2pm and an electricity pole was blown down by extreme winds in Kells.
Cautious motorists were diverted along the Chapeltown Road when police in Antrim closed the Fernisky Road for several hours at its junction with the Lisnevenagh Road while the pole was removed.
Storm chaser Martin McKenna, who runs the website nightskyhunter.com, spent yesterday exploring the harshest weather across Northern Ireland.
"It was crazy," he said.
"Winds were gusting at 80mph and the sea was chaotic. The waves were powerful and impressive - almost dangerous.
"We spotted lightning around the Donegal and Antrim coast and there was hail on our way home. A real mix of everything."
As for the rest of the week today will be cloudy with showers, most frequent over Antrim, Londonderry and west Tyrone.
It will feel less windy with fresh or strong westerly winds and a maximum temperature of 9C.
Tomorrow will be cloudy with rain, which will be heavy at times.
But the weekend is set to get brighter with some sunny spells - unfortunately accompanied by blustery showers and strong southwesterly winds.
Looking ahead there are currently no further weather warnings for the rest of the year however unsettled weather is set to persist into the start of January.
Elsewhere, winds of up to 90mph battered Scotland and the north of England yesterday although some parts of the UK were enjoying some of the balmiest December weather for decades.
Waves crashed against Blackpool promenade while much of the north-west braced itself for blustery showers.
Scotland bore the brunt of the fierce weather with the Forth and Tay road bridges closed to high-sided vehicles and the Met Office issuing a severe warning.
However, in Somerset, bathers took advantage of the mild temperatures - which are expected to continue into the New Year - to take a dip in the naturally heated rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa.