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Storm Barbara set to batter Northern Ireland before Christmas

NIE on standby due to possibility of damage to electricity network

A weather warning for wind has been extended to Christmas Day, as forecasters warn travel disruption is likely when Storm Barbara starts to batter Northern Ireland on Friday.

The Met Office has now issued two yellow weather warnings for wind for the whole of Northern Ireland. The first alert is in place for a 24 hour-period between 9am on Friday and 9am on Saturday to coincide with Storm Barbara, while a second alert covers all day on Christmas Day, from 9am until midnight.

It will remain cold and some heavy rain is also expected for a time on Friday.

Scotland will be worst affected by the storm, which is due to disrupt large areas in the north and west of the UK just before Christmas.

A severe amber wind warning is covering northern and western parts of Scotland from Friday afternoon into Christmas Eve.

"Gusts of 60 to 70mph are likely quite widely," the Met Office says, "with westerly winds gusting to 80- 90mph likely across parts of western and northern Scotland later on Friday and overnight into Saturday.

"Winds will then moderate on Saturday morning."

A further spell of very strong southwesterly winds is now expected on Christmas Day. Gusts of 50 to 60mph are likely in Northern Ireland.

The Met Office says there is potential for some structural damage and disruption to power supplies and travel during the storm, with restrictions on bridges and disruption to ferries, while poor weather on Sunday is “unlikely to help”.

Large waves could affect coastal areas.

Deputy Chief Meteorologist Chris Tubbs said: "The disturbed conditions look like continuing through Christmas weekend, with another vigorous low pressure system waiting in the wings."

Electricity networks warned of a possibility of damage to the electricity network.

Julia Carson, NIE Networks Communications Manager, said: "We have been liaising with the Met Office during the week, putting our emergency crews, engineers and local incident centre staff on standby throughout the Christmas period.

" If there is any damage to our network from severe weather, we are prepared and we’ll be doing all we can to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

“We are particularly keen to stress our regular safety message that on no account should anyone ever approach a broken pole or electricity line.  Keep away and report the damage immediately to NIE Networks on 03457 643 643.”

The weather alerts have been issued as Christmas travellers are planning festive visits to friends and family this weekend. Drivers are being urged to be vigilant on the roads.

Storm Barbara is the second named storm of the 2016-17 season.

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