Belfast Telegraph

Weather: 70mph gales bring chaos to air, roads and ferries

BY JACK BRENNAN

Ferocious winds and heavy rain have caused massive disruption to travellers in Northern Ireland.

Commuters returning to work today faced gusts of up to 70mph, while ferries were cancelled this morning.

Roads were closed in Dungannon, Omagh, Cookstown, Co Fermanagh, Tandragee, Loughgall, Armagh, Keady and Newry last night due to fallen trees.

Five flights from England due to land at Belfast City George Best Airport last night were diverted to Belfast International. One flight had to return to Birmingham.

“We're taking diversions as the wind plays havoc with operations,” a spokesman for Belfast International wrote on Twitter.

Four sailings of StenaLines’ Belfast-to-Cairnryan car ferry service were cancelled yesterday, as well as two early this morning.

Sailings to Liverpool were also cancelled or delayed.

P&O Ferries suspended all sailings between Larne and Cairnryan last night.

The company said they would resume today, but added: “Passengers however should be aware that if weather front tracks slower than predicted then sailings may not resume until later.”

Both companies advised passengers to check their information lines for updates: 087 0575 5755 for StenaLine or 084 5832 8888 for P&O.

In Londonderry, the Foyle Bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles and a 30mph speed limit introduced for all other vehicles.

Earlier, a weather warning of gale force winds issued by the Met Office was extended into today.

But the outlook for the weekend is much brighter with sunny spells and highs of seven degrees.

In the Republic, Met Eireann last night warned of heavy and prolonged showers in western and northern counties, with some thundery downpours and possibly spot-flooding in places.

A red alert was issued, with severe gales predicted in Wexford, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Waterford today and tomorrow. With high seas, the Republic is also facing the threat of coastal floods.

While disruption has been largely minimal in Northern Ireland over the last few days, people in Britain have not been as fortunate.

The south of England has been worst affected with more than 1,000 homes flooded and 12,500 properties without power. Many experienced a miserable Christmas Day and festive period as flood waters tore through homes after rivers burst their banks.

Parts of Hampshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex were all badly affected, with thousands of people forced to spend Christmas out of their homes as heavy rain and 70mph winds battered the area.

Rivers remained swollen yesterday evening and further wind and rain are expected to hit already saturated areas today as a new storm rolls in off the Atlantic today. Some strong gusts of wind going up to 90mph are expected this morning.

Five people died earlier this week in England as commuters attempted to travel home for Christmas.

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