Updated: 16/10/17 : 05:13:37
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Sligo schools all shut as country braces for Ophelia

Special Report

THE WEATHER equivalent of a hard 'Brexit' smashed into Ireland shortly after daybreak this morning, Monday.

All schools in the Republic are closed down and the entire country is now on red alert for high winds.

Upgraded warnings shortly after 8pm last night superseded all earlier alerts.

National and regional radio stations stayed on air with updates throughout last night.

Members of the public are advised to stay tuned today for the latest updates.

Originally, it was thought that just eight counties along the west coast, from Kerry to Mayo, would bear the brunt of today's wind and rain.

The National Hurricane Centre in Miami, Florida, said this morning that the worst hit areas in Ireland will be in Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal.

Full Force

Met forecasters had warned earlier in the weekend that Ireland would experience ''the aftermath'' of Hurricane Ophelia.

Today, however, the country is braced for the full force of a hurricane-type storm, not just the remnants.

Met Eireann meteorologist Joanna Donnelly told RTÉ viewers last night: ''This is not the remnants of a hurricane - this is a hurricane.''

Gavin Gallagher of the Met said starkly: ''It’s the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic on record in history.”

Every school and college in the country will remain closed today, said the Department of Education.


Most court sittings have been cancelled across the country, it emerged after a meeting of the National Emergency Response Committee.


HSE Appointments


Locally, HSE appointments and those at Sligo University Hospital have been cancelled. See below.


Today's red alert is for wind gusts in excess of 120 kilometres per hour -- possibly higher in some instances.

Surges are expected in coastal areas but thankfully there is no high tide marker.

The predicted trajectory for Ophelia early Monday was to make landfall along the western seaboard, most likely Kerry.

It's path throughout today is then expected to see it move westward in the country before making its exit up north.

Met Éireann alerts are scheduled to stay in place until 9am tomorrow, Tuesday.

Hospitals

Saolta Hospital Group has issued the following notice: "Due to the weather warnings issued by Met Eireann directly related to storm Ophelia, all outpatient appointments in Sligo University Hospital and Letterkenny University Hospital are cancelled for Monday 16th October. 

"Patients are advised not to travel to the hospitals unless absolutely necessary. We will be in contact with this group of patients to reschedule their appointment as quickly as possible.

"The Emergency Departments remain open 24/7 and the Acute Assessment Units in both hospitals will be operational."

All Bus Eireann services have been cancelled until 2pm.

Debbie Recalled

Sean Hogan, national director for fire and emergency management, said Ophelia was an “extreme weather event.”

“The comparable weather event we are looking at is, he said: "Hurricane Debbie in 1961.''

The Met's upgraded red alert for the entire country warns of a threat to property, infrastructure and, by extension, lives are also at risk.

The comparison with Hurricane Debbie recalls countrywide havoc after serene morning on Saturday September 16th 1961. 

That too was a tropical cyclone, which came in along Ireland's west coast after spending time in the Azores and finally burning out in Russia.

Some offshore wind gusts that day in Ireland measured at over 180 kilometres per hour.

Extensive damage to late-season holiday caravans at Rosses Point, sturdy trees, slated roofs and even some galvanised shed covers went flying that day.

That tropical storm (hurricane) peaked in Sligo town around lunchtime and many residential areas were left without power, while streets were deserted. 

Full cocks of hay with stay-ropes and some young children were lifted clean off the ground that Saturday morning in Sligo town and county.

Also felled in that storm was a sturdy tree from the old Woodmartin Estate adjacent to the (then) new shop opened by Paddy Gilmartin -- of Sligo Rovers fame -- at Doorly Park.

Eighteen people were killed across Ireland in that 1961 storm, records confirm.

The greater number of fatalities were in the Republic with 12 deaths, and six in the North.

Council Meeting

It was not a school day back then but the scheduled monthly meeting of Sligo County Council proceeded in the Courthouse, its usual venue.

A full bus service operated between Sligo and Derry that day, what would now be the '64' Expressway between Galway and Derry via Sligo.

Ireland was in the middle of a (dull) general election; the Dail had been dissolved the week before Debbie arrived in mid September 1961.

The local storm talked about in every generation of recent ages was The Night of the Big Wind in January 1939, which ravaged property across County Sligo.

Finally, Debbie featured in a 1991 study of storms from Cambridge University Press.

That book was edited by Hubert Lamb, founder of Climate Research Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Photos: You can send your storm photos to; news@sligotoday.ie



UPDATES ::

Sligo - People in Sligo and the North West should remain indoors from 3pm when the full force of the hurricane is expected to hit the area.

Most shops and restaurants in Sligo are to stay closed today.

Dunnes Stores has announced that all its outlets in Ireland and Northern Ireland will remain closed today.

Constant Updates on https://twitter.com/sligotoday