Schools asked to delay opening over Storm Debi ‘possible danger to life’

Schools in parts of Ireland have been asked to delay opening, as the Irish meteorological agency warned of a “possible danger to life” from Storm Debi.

Status red wind warnings will come into effect for Clare, east Galway and south Roscommon, Offaly and Westmeath on Monday.

The red warning for Clare and parts of Galway and Roscommon is in place between 3am and 5am.

The separate red warning for Offaly and Westmeath is between 5am and 7am.

People in these areas are warned of a “potential danger to life” during the storm.

Separate warnings were earlier issued for the island of Ireland as Debi is forecast to bring heavy rain and strong winds.

It comes after parts of the island were devastated by floods during intense rain from Storms Babet and Ciaran.

While a yellow warning applies to every county in the country, the majority of people are also living in areas where an orange warning applies due to the risk of “severe and damaging gusts” from Sunday night.

Met Eireann says it will be “very windy or stormy” due to Storm Debi across the country, with heavy and a chance of embedded thunderstorms and hail.

It warned there is a possibility of localised flooding, hazardous driving conditions and fallen trees.

The yellow warning for the entire country comes into effect from midnight and expires at 3pm on Monday.

The more severe orange wind warning applies to 19 counties for a more concentrated period of damaging gusts between 2am and midday on Monday.

Forecasters warned of damage to exposed and vulnerable structures, dangerous travelling conditions, damage to power lines and disruption of services.

The warning applies to the entire counties under the red warnings, as well as Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Wicklow, Cavan, Monaghan, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary.

Ireland’s National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG) advised schools and pre-schools in these counties to remain closed until 10am on Monday.

Speaking after a meeting of the group, director for emergency management Keith Leonard said schools have been asked to delay opening in parts of the country.

Mr Leonard said: “On the balance of risk and to ensure public safety, all schools and pre-schools are asked to remain closed until 10 o’clock tomorrow morning in the orange and the red areas.”

Mr Leonard, the national director for fire and emergency management, said local authorities and response agencies have been preparing for the storm over the weekend.

Storm graphic
(PA Graphics)

He advised people to stay away from coastal areas as conditions will be “extremely hazardous”.

He also warned: “People are advised to keep track of the Met Eireann weather forecast because those counties in red, orange could change at short notice.”

Mr Leonard said people should expect lengthy delays across public transport and delays at ports and airports.

He added: “Employers are asked to have some flexibility in relation to employees who have to travel to work tomorrow and if working from home is an option, that will be the preferred option for people tomorrow in the counties affected.”

Mr Leonard said road users should be aware of the “very hazardous and difficult conditions” on Monday.

He said there will be a substantial number of downed trees and other debris during the “serious winter storm with some dangerous features”.

“A very important message in relation to keeping your phone charged. There’s going to be extensive electricity outages tomorrow, and your mobile phone is your link to the emergency services.”

Met Eireann’s head forecaster said gusts of up 130 kilometres per hour (80 miles per hour) are expected in the red areas.

“We can expect some disruption with travel, some infrastructural issues such as power cables coming down.”

Asked about issuing red wind warnings 12 hours before they are due to come into effect, Eoin Sherlock said the current system is “very chaotic” and very difficult to predict.

“We did give people a heads up yesterday, there was an advisory.”

Mr Sherlock said the agency could not rule out further counties being put under a red weather warning for Storm Debi.

However, he said: “We’re hopefully confident enough now that we’ve reached what we will be issuing.”

Flooded roads
Storm Babet left roads under water in parts of Ireland last month (PA)

Various marine advisories also apply to coastal waters, including a red warning for westerly winds reaching violent storm force 11 between 2am and 5am from Valentia to Loop Head to Slyne Head.

The UK Met Office has issued a yellow wind and rain warning for all of Northern Ireland on Monday.

It said heavy rain and strong winds may bring disruption and flooding to parts of the region.

It advised people to be aware that homes and businesses could be flooded and there could be disruption to bus, rail and air travel.

The agency also warned that fast-flowing or deep floodwater and flying debris could cause a danger to life

Power cuts are also possible.

The warning comes into effect at 3am on Monday and applies until 2pm.