Monster waves, gale force winds and snow lash the north coast
Storms battered Northern Ireland last night as gale force winds and snow lashed the province.
The highest wave ever to hit Irish shores was also recorded off the coast of Donegal. The monster 67-foot (20m) wave was measured at a special buoy 60 miles out to sea, as a force ten storm raged across the north coast.
Ferries were cancelled and airports diverted flights as winds of up to 80mph caused disruption and sparked a warning by the Met Office.
Forecasters said counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh would be the worst affected by sleet and snow showers overnight. Very strong winds were also predicted.
The high winds also led to the Rathlin ferry being cancelled and speed restrictions placed on all rail services.
Coastal areas were badly hit by the stormy weather and the Irish Coastguard urged people to stay off exposed coasts, cliffs, piers, harbour walls, beaches and promenades until more settled weather arrives.
Waves crashed over the coastal walls on the Portaferry Road, Newtownards, causing hazardous driving conditions and prompting police to issue a safety warning to motorists.
A number of roads across the country were forced to close due to the weather conditions, including Airport Road West in Belfast, and the Farlough Road in Portadown. The Roshure Road, Desertmartin, was closed because of a fallen tree.
A Met Office spokesman advised the public to monitor warnings over the next 24 hours.
“Rapidly strengthening winds and heavy rain are likely to reach the west later on Thursday and extend quickly eastwards overnight
into Friday bringing another potentially stormy period,” a Met Office spokesman said.
Gritters were out overnight across Northern Ireland salting the main network.
A Department for Regional Development spokeswoman said: “Even if roads have been salted, motorists should be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances.”
Belfast International airport said they were prepared for the bad weather.
“We currently have a strong wind warning and snow warning in place,” a spokeswoman said last night. “This warning is in place until 6pm but we expect an extension of these warnings overnight.
“We are fully operational and the winter plan is effectively in force.”
The spokeswoman said they have warned passengers to be prepared for some delays.
Forecasters said the bad weather would continue over the next 24 hours with “rapidly strengthening” winds and heavy rain expected to hit the province later today.
The Met Office last night issued a yellow warning of snow, saying between five and 15cms of snow could fall in hilly parts leading to potentially hazardous driving conditions.