NIE vows to work through night as gales damage houses and close parks and city’s Christmas market
Northern Ireland has been battered by Storm Barra which brought strong winds, heavy rain and snow on Tuesday.
The yellow weather warning for wind, which expired on Tuesday evening, caused significant disruption and damage to properties around Northern Ireland. Fionnuala Black, who lives in Aghalee, said the bad weather conditions have caused £1,000 worth of damage to her roof.
"It was really bad this morning, we got up at around 6am and the wind was starting to pick up then," she said. "We heard a noise and at first I thought it was wind blowing in the attic. I heard it again and thought that doesn't sound right so I went out the black and the roof tiles were just sliding down the roof. It was scary. We're just panicking because they could hit the other Velux windows on the roof - the tiles are still up there and haven't come down yet."
She immediately called a builder who warned her not to let anyone walk around the perimeter of the house because of the danger posed by the tiles. "He told us not to even let the dog out, the wind is so bad. The tiles themselves will only cost a few hundred pounds but they have to put out the scaffolding."
Mrs Black said she's hopeful there will be no further damage to her home. "The worst of it seems to have passed now so hopefully it will be calmer tonight."
The strongest recorded gust so far in Northern Ireland was 76mph at Orlock, County Down, surpassing expectations reported by weather forecasters earlier in the week. Wind speeds of 71mph were recorded at Magilligan, County Londonderry.
Devon in England saw the strongest gusts of wind, at 77mph while Gwynedd in northwest Wales saw 69mph, according to forecasters.
Parts of the Republic of Ireland moved to a status orange weather warning which remained in place until early on Wednesday morning which schools in areas with red or orange warnings advised not to open.
Thousands of Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) customers lost power over the course of the day. Mark Nixon from NIE said the storm had knocked out power to 8,000 homes across Northern Ireland at its peak. "Our teams will be working through the evening and into the night and we really do hope and expect to have the large majority of those customers restored this evening,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.
A spokesperson for NIE Networks said: “Extra staff have been brought in to help with our response to Storm Barra and our teams are working hard to repair any damage to the network as safely and quickly as possible.
“We have also mobilised additional call agents to deal with any queries customers may have regarding the repair process in their area.
A wall collapsed at Ballywalter Harbour in County Down and caused a large crack to form and scaffolding collapsed onto a car in Londonderry. In Belfast, the Christmas Market in the grounds of City Hall was shut while the National Trust said Mount Stewart estate on the shores of Strangford Lough was closed "to ensure the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers".
Victoria Park in east Belfast remained closed until Wednesday morning due to the threat of heavy rain coinciding with predicted high tides, according to Belfast City Council. Botanic Gardens in Belfast was also closed, with the festive Bright Lights Botanic trail shut for the evening.
Due to the severe weather, all bin collections in the Newry and South Armagh area were stood down. Meanwhile, Stormont's Christmas tree also fell foul of the storm.
It also also caused difficulties for some medical staff, including Belfast GP Alan Stout who said he had to work in a "ventilated room with a broken window". BBC News NI correspondent Chris Page's glove was blown away as he reported on the storm, with a clip later shared on social media.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) appealed for people to stay "well back from the water's edge" due to the risk of large waves, and in any coastal emergency to dial 999 for the coastguard. Stena Line cancelled four ferries from Belfast to Cairnryan due to stormy conditions.
Sleet and snow has also been experienced in western areas of the island, planes arriving in Northern Ireland airports are having difficulties landing and driving conditions are proving treacherous for some.
The Department of Infrastructure advised motorists to take extra care, especially around coasts of Down and Antrim where some large overtopping waves proved treacherous.
Police in the Causeway Coast and Glens area shared an image of a car flipped on its roof on the Cushendall Road in Ballycastle and warned "the weather getting worse and wind speeds increasing". "Please take extra care whilst using the roads," they said.
"This driver was very lucky to walk away from this accident this morning without any serious or life changing injuries."
Storm Barra is the second named storm of the season and arrives just ten days after Storm Arwen late in November, which caused three fatalities in the UK.