Powerful Storm Lashes Ireland, Killing at Least 3 People

Ophelia Storm

One of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the northeastern Atlantic bore down on Ireland on Monday, unleashing strong winds and rain that killed at least three people and visited destruction on an island with little experience of such powerful storms.

The national weather service, Met Eireann, issued its first red alert for severe weather for the entire country Sunday night, warning of “violent and destructive gusts” and of “potential loss of life.”

By Monday afternoon, at least three people had been killed, officials said. One was a motorist in her 20s who died when a tree crashed through her windshield near the town of Aglish in County Waterford. A passenger, a woman in her 50s, was also injured.

The second fatality was a man in his 30s who died in what officials described as a chain-saw accident while removing a fallen tree near Cahir in County Tipperary. The third was a man who was hit by a falling tree while driving in the village of Ravensdale north of Dundalk near the border with Northern Ireland, the police said.

The storm, the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia, also left hundreds of thousands without power across the island. Strong winds ripped the roofs off buildings in Ireland’s largest cities, Dublin and Cork, and pushed seawater over coastal defenses in the western city of Galway.

The national police force, An Garda Siochana, said Monday afternoon that the storm would “bring further violent and destructive winds” and flooding that would endanger life and property throughout the night.

“This is a national red alert,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said at a news conference on Monday. “It applies to all cities, all counties and all areas.”

Mr. Varadkar said the last time a storm this powerful had hit Ireland was in 1961 when Hurricane Debbie left 11 people dead.

Winds reached 176 kilometers, or 109 miles, an hour at Fastnet Rock, the country’s most southerly point, the weather service said Monday morning. And the storm’s impact was felt as far away as London, where the sky turned a smoky shade of orange from dust from Sahara sandstorms and wildfires in Portugal and Spain carried north by Ophelia’s powerful winds.

Ophelia, classified as a Category 3 hurricane over the weekend, was downgraded on Monday to a post-tropical cyclone by the National Hurricane Center in the United States.

Nevertheless, Met Eireann said it was the most powerful storm ever recorded this far east in the Atlantic. It was the 10th hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic storm season.

The storm churned north across Ireland on Monday and was expected to move toward Britain late Monday or early Tuesday, according to Britain’s national weather service, the Met Office, which called the storm “ex-Hurricane Ophelia.”

Ophelia’s impact was already being felt in Britain. Schools were closed in Pembrokeshire in southwestern Wales, and flood warnings and alerts were issued for the northwestern and southwestern coasts of England.

It also tried to inject some humor into the situation, sharing a cartoon that depicted the island blowing off the map. “Gusty winds can move us all in mysterious ways,” it said.

Although Monday was nominally a working day, the country’s main business association, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, or Ibec, encouraged its members to allow employees to work from home if possible.

“Given the current red status weather warning and widespread issuing of public safety alerts, Ibec encourages all businesses to minimize the movement of employees tomorrow,” the group said in a statement on Sunday. “Safety should be of the utmost priority.”

Mr. Varadkar told reporters he was concerned that “people may believe that the storm isn’t going to be as bad as predicted.”

“There is a possibility that we are going to be here tomorrow relieved that the damage was less than we thought, but we can’t operate on that basis,” he said. “So I don’t want anyone to think that this is anything other than a national emergency and a red alert in all counties, all cities, all areas.”

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