Storm Barra ‘only halfway through’ with stronger winds on the way

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Storm Barra is only “halfway through” and the strongest winds could be yet to come, the Housing Minister has warned.

Some 56,000 homes are without power and may not be reconnected for a number of days, Government officials have said, after the country was battered by winds of up to 130km per hour.

The Defence Forces are to be drafted in for “extensive recovery operations”, to clear debris and damage caused by the storm.

Mica homeowners
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister Darragh O’Brien said: “We are only halfway through. The winds may increase, and are projected to do so later in the day and into the evening.

“Not that there’s any sense of complacency. The public have responded really well, but just to be on their guard.

“I think people should be on their guard throughout today and into tonight.”

After making landfall on Tuesday morning, Storm Barra has caused flooding in southern parts of the country, particularly in parts of Co Cork.

The impacts have included a flooding of 23 premises in Bantry in Co Cork, some other properties in Galway city and in Cork city.

There has been one report of a person being injured in the south-west of the country, although it is not yet clear if this is related to the storm.

Emergency financial supports are to be put in place for businesses damaged by Storm Barra, which will not be impacted upon by the supports in place for those hit by Covid-19 restrictions.

Schools, colleges and creches in some of the worst-affected areas were shut amid warnings that no part of the island will escape the effects of the storm.

The Minister for Education, Norma Foley, is to make an announcement later on Tuesday on whether schools will close for a second day on Wednesday.

Winter weather Dec 7th 2021
Sandbags are piled up in the town of Bantry in County Cork which suffered flooding after Storm Barra hit (Andy Gibson/PA)

Covid-19 test and vaccination centres will also remain closed in some parts of the country.

Minister O’Brien said people in red and orange level areas should not travel for vaccinations.

“We’re saying these people particularly in red areas to stay at home, not to leave home, and for people not to take unnecessary trips in other areas,” he said.

“The reality of it is one day, or a day and a half, is not going to impact substantially on what we need to do, with regard to our booster programme.”

Information on vaccination and testing centre closures will be provided through the HSE website and social media channels.

Met Eireann put in place a status red warning for counties Clare, Cork and Kerry, which means the storm could pose a “threat to life”.

Keith Leonard, chair of the National Emergency Coordination Group, urged people to keep their mobile phones charged in case of emergency.

He said: “People should remember to keep their mobile phones charged, because there’s going to be significant power disruptions throughout the country today.

“And if you need emergency services, call 999 and 112.

“Even if your mobile phone is not showing coverage, there’s a good chance that you will be picked up on some signals.

“There will be disruption to the telecommunications networks throughout the country today.”

Winter weather Dec 7th 2021
Members of the fire brigade pump away floodwater in Bantry, County Cork, after Storm Barra hit the UK and Ireland with disruptive winds, heavy rain and snow. (Andy Gibson/PA)

As Storm Barra moves eastwards away from Ireland on Wednesday morning, the strongest winds will ease but it will still remain a windy day with a yellow wind and rain warning in place until 6pm on Wednesday, the Department of Housing said.

Met Eireann Meteorologist Liz Walsh said the winds would not ease fully until “tomorrow late afternoon”.

She added: “Very strong winds in combination with high tides means there is a continued risk of large coastal waves and coastal flooding, particularly along southern and western parts of the country.

“Driving conditions will remain tricky and dangerous at times, with the risk of fallen trees, fallen power lines and spot flooding from the heavy rain.

“Temporary outdoor structures will be particularly vulnerable to the expected wind gusts.

“We’re advising the public to listen to their local travel advice and to keep a close eye on Met Eireann forecasts and warnings, as they may be updated.

“Whilst the heaviest rain has cleared, heavy and blustery showers are forecast for today and tomorrow and some of these will be a wintry mix of sleet, snow and hail – along with the strong winds this will make driving conditions tricky with reduced visibility on the road.”

Business owners in Bantry, Co Cork, fought to keep flood water from entering properties while members of the fire brigade pumped away water.

Met Eireann has warned that disruption to travel and the power supply are likely, along with coastal flooding.

Gardai have urged anyone living in areas affected by red or orange warnings to avoid unnecessary travel.

Cork, Kerry and Clare have been given the red warning while an orange-level warning is in place for much of the east and west coast.

A yellow warning is in place for the rest of the country from 2am on Tuesday until 6pm on Wednesday.

Met Eireann said there is a strong possibility that the alert status of some counties could move from orange to red.

A UK Met Office yellow wind warning for Northern Ireland will remain in place until 6pm on Tuesday.

As of 2pm, there were around 4,000 electricity customers without power across Northern Ireland.

NIE Networks said affected areas included Downpatrick, Newtownards, Newry, Coleraine, Dungannon and Craigavon.

However, NIE said the network had held up well overall, with Storm Barra having had a relatively low impact so far.

The Irish Coast Guard has urged the public to avoid any activities that could expose them to “unnecessary danger”.

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