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Newry district battered by Ophelia

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

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NEWRY and Mourne was yesterday bracing itself for an expected battering from Hurricane Ophelia, writes Colin O'Neill.

The storm, which was stealthily making its way across the Atlantic at the time that the Democrat was going to press, was on its way from the Azores.

Ophelia set the record for the most easterly category three hurricane in the Atlantic.

Category three hurricanes are defined as having wind speeds of between 111mph and 129mph.

In anticipation of winds of up to 80mph when the storm reached Ireland, the Met Office issued an amber warning on Sunday evening.

Initially that warning was from 3pm yesterday. However, that was brought forward to 12 noon.

An amber warning is issued when it is believed that there is an increased likelihood of bad weather affecting the public.

This could potentially mean that people may have to cancel plans, deal with travel delays, road and rail closures, interruption to power and the potential risk to life and property.

When the Met Office issues an amber warning, it means experts believe people should be prepared to change plans and protect themselves, their family and community from the impacts of the severe weather.

Late on Sunday night, the Department of Education advised that all schools in Northern Ireland should remain closed for the day.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council took the step of suspending all of its services, such as bin collections and closing leisure centres and arts facilities,  from 12pm.

And the Southern Trust said it planned "to maintain hospital and community services".

A spokesperson said: "This is subject to on-going review and potential impact of adverse weather conditions.

"If you are happy to travel, and feel safe to do so, we will be available to provide your service. If you do not want to travel, please let us know and we will get you re-booked as soon as possible.

"Clients who may be affected by some changes to day centre and community services will be contacted directly.

"We will endeavour to continue to provide health and social care services, as long as it is safe for both our patients, clients and our staff.

"Please check back through our social media channels for further updates."

The Met Office also said yesterday there was a "good chance" Northern Ireland could be hit by power cuts, flying debris, large waves in coastal areas and disruption to all travel services.

Yesterday, many shops and businesses in Newry closed their doors early, while Dublin airport said up to 130 flights are expected to be cancelled.

Belfast airport said passengers should check with their airline.

Northern Ireland's Chief Justice advised the judiciary that all courts should be finished by 12.30pm.

Meanwhile, former US President Bill Clinton cancelled a trip to Belfast because of the weather.

It is understood he was due to meet Northern Ireland's political parties over the current stalemate at Stormont.

Members of the public should note the following numbers in case of emergency:

 

Emergency services - 999 or 112

Housing Executive - 03448 920 901

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks - 03457 643 643

NI Gas Emergency Service - 0800 002 001

Northern Ireland Water Waterline - 03457 440 088

Flooding Incident Line - 0300 2000 100

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