Ireland closes schools as major storm approaches
Schools were closed Monday as Ireland braced for an “unprecedented storm,” with authorities warning that violent winds, rain and storm surges could pose a risk to life.
Ophelia, the largest hurricane ever recorded so far east in the Atlantic Ocean, was downgraded to a storm before it hit the Irish coast, but the Met Eireann national weather service warned people to remain indoors.
“Ex-hurricane Ophelia is forecast to track directly over Ireland during daytime today. Violent and destructive gusts are forecast with all areas at risk,” the service said early Monday.
It warned of “heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding. There is a potential risk to lives.”
The education ministry said “all schools, colleges and other education institutions” would be closed on Monday, after official advice on what it called an “unprecedented storm.”
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Sunday that defense forces would be deployed to areas due to be hit by the storm.
Cork airport in the southwest canceled a number of flights. Speed restrictions were placed on trains, and some lines in the south were canceled.
Government offices were also closed across the country.
Met Eireann issued a nationwide “status red” alert, while a less serious amber wind warning has been issued for Northern Ireland during the afternoon.
“By the time Ophelia reaches our latitudes, she will be weakening and will be an ex-hurricane,” said Steve Ramsdale, chief forecaster at Britain’s Met Office national weather service.
“However, Ex-Ophelia will be bringing some significant impacts to Northern Ireland and western and northern Britain on Monday and Tuesday.”
Scotland, Wales and parts of England were under yellow warnings issued by the Met Office, which forecast “very strong winds” and heavy rain in some areas.
The storm came 30 years to the day of the Great Storm, which ravaged southern England in the early hours of October 16, 1987, leaving 18 people dead.
Ophelia is the 15th named storm of the 2017 Atlantic season, which is expected to last until the end of November.
Three major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused catastrophic damage in the Caribbean and the US Gulf Coast.
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