Belfast Telegraph

Damage feared as fierce 80mph blasts batter Northern Ireland

Two teenage girls blown off their feet into the side of a passing bus as fearsome storm brings destructive gales in wake of blizzards that blocked roads, shut schools and halted buses and ferries

By Donna Deeney

Two girls have been blown off their feet and taken to hospital in Belfast city as arctic weather and fierce winds batter Northern Ireland.

But it was the north west that bore the brunt of the snow and gales for a second day.

Police also reported that the two teenage girls were blown into the side of a passing bus this morning in Belfast city centre.

The incident happened at around 11.15am in High Street and the girls were taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
More than 100 primary, secondary and special schools closed and bus routes to and from rural areas were suspended.

By last night, the snow had largely turned to rain, amid a continuing Met Office yellow weather warning, swept in by an Atlantic Ocean cyclone dubbed Storm Rachel.

Gusts of up to 80mph are expected to batter much of Northern Ireland, again mostly in the north west.

Weather experts are warning that the strong winds and heavy rain could cause damage to power lines and property as the stormy conditions prevail.

The rain will, however, herald a rise in the mercury, with highs of up to six degrees replacing the colder weather of recent days.

The strongest winds are expected to be along the east coast, especially Co Down.

Meanwhile, a Status Red alert has been issued in the Republic of Ireland for coastal and mountain areas of Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry.

All buses in and out of Derry city were suspended by Translink yesterday morning with a limited service reinstated in the afternoon.

Trains and airports so far remained largely unaffected by the adverse weather.

Translink advised all passengers to check its website for travel updates before setting out, with Ulsterbus and Goldline services disrupted in Ballycastle, Ballymena, Coleraine, Omagh, Cookstown and Dungannon.

Metro services operated as normal but ferry crossings between Rathlin and Ballycastle in Co Antrim were cancelled.

While Belfast remained largely unaffected by the snow, elsewhere fields, hills, roads and footpaths were hidden below several inches, including across vast swathes of Co Down.

Navigating footpaths became difficult as the snow compacted and turned to packed ice. Philomena McGuinness, who walked across Eglinton village rather than risk driving, said: "I left my car at home because the streets haven't been gritted but the footpaths are treacherous.

"I need to check on my elderly uncle who lives at the far end of the village and I thought this was the best way to do it, but I am not so sure now."

Gritter lorries and snow ploughs were deployed and staff worked throughout the night with additional resources allocated to counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh which allowed traffic to pass with caution along the main routes.

A spokeswoman for Transport NI reiterated an earlier warning to motorists to drive with care and allow extra time for journeys.

She added: "Our teams have been working around the clock battling against severe weather conditions in efforts to keep roads passable.

"Gritters and snow ploughs have been used to help clear roads most impacted upon by heavy snow and icy conditions.

"Even with the most careful and thorough planning, ice-free roads cannot be guaranteed."

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