500 homes face night without power
Hundreds of families will remain without power overnight after a fierce Atlantic storm crashed into Ireland, blacking out homes, grounding flights, halting ferry crossings and delaying countless rail and road commuters.
Emergency crews battled conditions throughout the day to restore electricity to 17,000 households as violent gusts up to 150kph (93mph) and torrential rain battered the western seaboard and moved eastwards across the country.
At one stage, four national weather warnings were in place - the most severe, a Status Red alert, for Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo and Sligo, where exposed coasts and mountainous areas took the brunt.
The second most severe, Status Orange, was declared amid gusts of up to 120kph (75mph) gusts in Counties Dublin, Louth, Wexford, Wicklow, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan, Roscommon, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.
Power company ESB said more than 3,000 homes and businesses remained without power by early evening, and up to 500 of those could expect to be left without an electricity supply until the morning.
Worst affected areas included Derrybeg and Falcarragh in Co Donegal as well as Ballina and Belmullet in Co Mayo.
Further faults throughout the evening were also unlikely to be fixed before the morning, an ESB spokesman said.
Dozens of schools shut for the day on the advice of education chiefs fearing the safety of children, parents and staff.
Storm Rachel also hit travel plans with 20 aircraft diverted from Dublin Airport, flights to Donegal grounded and ferry sailings between Dublin and Holyhead, Larne and Cairnryan and smaller services to offshore islands cancelled.
Motorists were impacted, as fallen trees, electricity poles, high winds and floods closed local routes or slowed traffic on the country's roads.
Speed restrictions on the rail network also delayed trains.
More than 10,000 homes were without landline phone connections and broadband during the day because of outages.
Eircom said it had more than 1,000 staff working to restore connections but their efforts were hampered by conditions in exposed areas.
Earlier in the day, 16,000 homes were without electricity, some 10,000 of these in Donegal.
ESB has warned people who come across fallen wires or damaged electricity network to stay clear and alert authorites.
"Unfortunately due to the numbers of faults in the North West, it is likely that approximately 400-500 customers, currently without supply, will not have supply restored tonight," a spokesman confirmed.
"There is also a possibility that if additional faults occur this evening, it may not be possible to restore supply until tomorrow.
"ESB Networks wishes to apologise to customers for this loss of supply."
Forecasters Met Eireann said the violent winds would ease overnight ahead of a cold, bright day with more moderate westerly winds.