Belfast Telegraph

Storm Ophelia: Amber weather warning for Northern Ireland brought forward to midday

  • Gusts of up to 80mph expected amid amber warning in Northern Ireland

  • Met Office says the storm will hit Northern Ireland earlier than expected - at 12 noon

  • All schools and further education colleges in Northern Ireland are closed

  • Ulster University campuses in Belfast, Coleraine, Jordanstown and Magee also closed.  Classes cancelled from 12pm at Queen's

  • Warning at highest level Red Alert across the Republic

  • Flight and travel disruption expected

All schools and Further Education colleges in Northern Ireland have closed as weather forecasters are warning of a potential threat to life posed by gusts from Hurricane Ophelia on Monday afternoon.

The Department of Education advised that all schools should close.

“This is entirely precautionary, however given the weather warnings and the fact that the most severe weather is forecast for when pupils are due to be leaving school, the Department believes that this is an appropriate response,” Stormont officials said in a statement on Sunday night.

“A regional meeting of multi-agency emergency responders met this evening to discuss a co-ordinated approach in light of the latest Met Office assessment. Key statutory agencies will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds and are prepared to respond as appropriate.”

Ulster University said its Belfast, Coleraine, Jordanstown and Magee campuses are also closed on Monday due to the severe weather warnings.  Classes at Queen's are cancelled from 12pm.

The amber warning for wind across Northern Ireland is in place between 12pm and 11pm with gusts of up to 70-80mph expected in some areas.

The Met Office forecaster said: "The hurricane crosses northern parts of Ireland during Monday afternoon and evening bringing some very strong winds to Northern Ireland. Gusts of 55-65 mph are likely across Northern Ireland, with 70-80 mph gusts in the far southeast.

"A smaller area of very gusty winds is then likely to run across Northern Ireland from the west with 65-75 mph gusts possible for a short period of time in any one location. Both of these areas of very strong winds may well occur during a busy traveling period."

The Met Office has warned that flying debris is likely such as tiles blown from roofs, as well as large waves around coastal areas with beach material being thrown onto coastal roads, sea fronts and properties.

There is also potential for disruption to travel with possible cancellations and delays on road, rail, air and ferry services.

HOMELESS

St Patrick's Soup Kitchen on Donegall Street beside St Patrick's Church will open to support those who are homeless and provide shelter from the storm .

Volunteers will be onsite from 5pm to provide support, food and shelter for those at risk of rough sleeping. 

Organisers said as they don't know the extent of the storm they will monitor the situation and open earlier if required.

EXAMS

CCEA has confirmed a number of examinations set to take place on Monday will be rescheduled.

The Essential Skills Application of Number Level 1 and Level 2 exams will now take place on Thursday October 19 at 1.30pm.

All other Essential Skills examinations scheduled for Tuesday 17 and Wednesday 18 will take place as scheduled. Anyone unable to take the exam on the rescheduled date will have another opportunity in January 2018.

COURTS

Northern Ireland's Chief Justice has advised that all courts will finish today at 12.30pm

In addition a yellow warning for wind is in place until 6pm on Tuesday.

The Met Office forecaster said: "Very strong winds are forecast to affect northern parts of the UK during Tuesday. Southwesterly winds are most likely to gust between 50 and 60 mph across much of the warning area with the potential for gusts of 70 mph across the Central Belt of Scotland and parts of Northeast England.

"The strongest winds could potentially coincide with the morning rush hour. Heavy rain is also possible in association with this system with western Scotland most prone at this stage."

Again, road, rail, air and ferry services could be affected by the weather. The Met Office has warned of a "slight chance" that power cuts may occur with potential to affect other services such as mobile phone coverage.

Red alert in the Republic

In the Republic, the Irish meteorological service has issued its highest possible Status Red warning, affecting the entire country.

A spokesman for the service said on Sunday night: "Ex-Hurricane Ophelia is forecast to track directly over Ireland during daytime Monday. Violent and destructive gusts are forecast with all areas at risk and in particular the southwest and south in the morning, and eastern counties in the afternoon. Also heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding.

"There is potential risk to lives."

All schools, colleges and other education institutions in the Republic will remain closed on Monday.

"This decision has been made following discussions with members of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and in light of the advice from Met Éireann on this unprecedented storm," the Department of Education and Skills said on Sunday night.

"All schools and colleges will be closed tomorrow.

In Dublin the National Emergency Co-ordination Group met to discuss preparations for the arrival of the storm - described by Met Eireann as the most powerful hurricane to have ever been this far east in the Atlantic on record.

 

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(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, the mercury is set to rise over the coming days, with temperatures of 25C (77F) predicted.

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(PA Graphics)

A Met Office spokeswoman said: “The east side of the country certainly benefiting from some warmer temperatures into the weekend and at the start of next week.”

She said temperatures in the south east will be around 20C (68F), going up to 22C (72F) or 23C (73F) on Sunday and “almost mid 20s” on Monday, possibly getting to around 25C (77F).

“Even up as far as Nottingham on Monday will see quite widely again 20C/21C, but may well see 22C/23C,” she said.

ADVICE: BE READY FOR STRONG WINDS

Before a forecast storm or strong winds you should:

Keep your property in a well-maintained condition (for example replace/ repair any loose roof tiles, guttering, and so on that could potentially come loose and cause injury or damage to property)

Secure loose objects such as ladders, garden furniture, wheelie bins, trampolines, or anything else that could be blown around

Close and securely fasten doors and windows

Park vehicles in a garage (if you have one) or keep them clear of buildings, trees, walls, and fences

Make sure you are prepared should there be a power cut

During a storm you should:

Stay indoors as much as possible

If you do go out, try not to walk or shelter close to buildings and trees

Not go outside to repair damage while the storm is ongoing

Not drive unless your journey is really necessary

After a storm you should:

Be careful not to touch any electrical/ telephone cables that have been blown down or are still hanging

Not walk too close to walls, buildings, and trees as they could have been weakened

Preparing for a power cut

It's important to be prepared for a potential loss of power. You should:

Know where your household fuses and trip switches are so that you can check if the problem is with your electrics only

Test smoke alarms regularly

Keep a supply of new batteries in torches and radios (for checking updates on news bulletins)

Keep a supply of candles

Keep mobile phones, laptops or tablets fully charged – so you will have use of battery power for a short time at least

Have the telephone numbers you might need to hand (as well as mobile phones, a non-mains powered landline telephone will help you stay in touch during any disruptions to your power supply)

If you have a baby at home, make sure you have a supply of pre-prepared formula baby milk (if used) and prepare a flask of hot water to heat bottles and baby food (it is always safer to make up a fresh feed; when this is not possible, feeds should never be stored for longer than 24 hours)

If you depend on electrical equipment that is vital to your health, contact Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) Networks to get on their Critical Care Register

If your electricity goes off, you should:

Check your fuses and trip switches - then check if your neighbours are without power

Leave one light on

Leave your fridge/ freezer switched on with the door shut to maintain a low temperature

Check that other electrical appliances and machinery are switched off at the wall

Preferably use a torch, oil or gas lamp as a source of light rather than candles

If you must use naked flames, please take extra care and make certain that they are put out before you go to bed

check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours in your area to make sure they are okay

If you are using a generator, be careful where you site it in case of carbon monoxide poisoning

Reporting a power cut

If your power is off and you want to report it or get more information, contact NIE Networks Customer Helpline or visit their website

NIE Networks Customer Helpline: 03457 643 643

Traffic and travel

High-sided vehicles are most affected by windy weather, but strong gusts can also blow a car, cyclist, motorcyclist or horse rider off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong cross winds, or when passing bridges or gaps in the hedges.

In very windy weather a vehicle may be affected by turbulence created by large vehicles. Motorcyclists are particularly affected, so keep well back from them when they are overtaking a high-sided vehicle.

Motorists are also advised to drive with care due to possible wind-blown debris.

Pedestrians and road users in coastal areas should also beware of dangerous conditions caused by strong winds, particularly around times of high tide.

If there are any problems on the roads as a result of high winds, you can get the latest updates on the TrafficwatchNI website

If you're planning to travel by air or sea, you should check with the ferry company or airline in case there are any delays or cancellations.

Emergency numbers in Northern Ireland:

  • Emergency services – 999 or 112
  • Housing Executive – 03448 920 901
  • Northern Ireland Electricity Networks – 03457 643 643
  • NI Gas Emergency Service – 0800 002 001
  • Northern Ireland Water Waterline – 03457 440 088
  • Flooding Incident Line – 0300 2000 100

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