Power cuts and blocked roads as 90mph gales wreak havoc
Published 19/12/2013 | 08:00
Thousands of homes were left without electricity after gale force winds of up to 90mph battered Northern Ireland.
There was widespread disruption across the country as heavy rain brought major flooding on many roads, causing treacherous driving conditions.
Omagh, Cookstown and Draperstown were among the areas affected by the heavy surface water gathering on the roads.
Several reports of falling trees added to the chaos with many roads being blocked and closed – causing further tailbacks.
Police issued a warning for drivers to exercise extreme caution due to the adverse weather conditions.
The Foyle Bridge in Derry was closed to high-sided vehicles with all other vehicles being reduced to a 30mph speed limit.
Belfast city centre rush hour traffic was brought to a grinding halt and commuters were left stranded in the torrential rain as the adverse weather conditions added huge delays to those coming in and out of Belfast.
Meanwhile, in the Republic a woman died after a tree was blown on to the top of her car near Mullingar in Co Westmeath.
The Newry area was among the worst affected as metal railings from St Mary's Secondary School fell and several fallen trees blocked housing estates, as well as chimneys collapsing.
Councillor Brendan Curran described the situation as horrendous.
Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) had emergency crews on standby to deal with the 2,000 customers left with no electricity late last night.
Margaret Leech (63), from outside Kells, was among those affected. She said: "Our electricity went off around 5.45pm.
"My son and his wife were coming out for dinner and I had just finished cooking when the power went out.
"We are going to have to just grin and bear it – all around us the power is out. We are not alone, all the power is out around us."
A 58-year-old woman was faced with complete darkness as she drove home on the Antrim to Ballymena road.
"None of the street lights were on at all and there was a lot of water on the roads – driving conditions were horrendous."
Last night NIE issued a statement in which it said emergency crews were working to assess the damage caused and to carry out repairs, but it warned that some customers may be left without electricity for some time as it was not safe for NIE staff to carry out repairs while the winds remained at a high level.
Spokeswoman Julia Carson said: "We were prepared for the storm and have already restored power to 5,000 customers. But we are expecting the winds to peak in the early hours, causing additional disruption to electricity supplies."