Ireland, UK Brace for Hurricane Ophelia

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Ireland ordered the closure of all schools Monday in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Ophelia, the largest ever recorded so far east in the Atlantic Ocean.

Ophelia is expected to turn into a “post-tropical” storm but will remain “powerful” on Monday as it approaches Ireland and the United Kingdom, according to the latest US hurricane center (NHC) forecasts.

These two countries could suffer “a direct impact caused by the wind and heavy rain, but also by dangerous sea conditions,” said the NHC, based in Miami, Florida.

In Ireland, meteorological services have placed eight counties in the west and south of the country in “red alert” from Monday morning, due to forecasts of wind gusts exceeding 130 km / h and a risk of flooding and “structural damage”.

The Irish Ministry of Education ordered in a statement that “all schools, colleges and other educational institutions remain closed on Monday”. School transport was canceled.

The decision was made after discussions with the government emergency unit and the Irish Meteorological Service on “this unprecedented storm,” said the Ministry of Education.

Transport is likely to be disrupted and Cork Airport (southwest) has warned that cancellations are possible.

Other areas of the country, including the capital city of Dublin, are in “yellow alert” or “orange”, with heavy rain expected.

The National Emergency Coordination Group, which brings together several government departments, issued a series of recommendations to the public following a meeting on Sunday.

While power cuts are considered “probable”, the group advises in particular to avoid the coastal zones Monday, as well as any unnecessary displacement, highlighting the “very strong winds” that could make the roads “dangerous”.

Ophelia reached category 3 on Saturday, rising one notch on a scale of 5, before passing off the Portuguese archipelago of Azores at night.

Hurricane Ophelia

Hurricane Ophelia is the strongest storm ever recorded so far east over the Atlantic Ocean — Credit: NOAA

Seven of the nine islands in the archipelago had been placed in “red alert”, but the hurricane did not cause any major damage to these islands.

According to a report provided Sunday by the regional civil protection, four trees were snatched on the island of Sao Miguel and the firemen intervened six times across the archipelago due to small floods or landslides.

Several flights connecting the islands to each other or to the Portuguese mainland were canceled, affecting about 800 passengers.

For experts, Ophelia will remain in the annals as the biggest hurricane ever recorded so far east over the Atlantic Ocean, and the first since 1939 to advance as much to the north.

In the United Kingdom, to which Ophelia will then head, the meteorological services have placed Northern Ireland on “orange alert” on Monday between 14:00 and 21:00 GMT (between 15:00 and 22:00 local time), the penultimate level, requiring the population to protect themselves from the “potentially life-threatening” consequences of the predicted meteorological conditions.

The Met Office anticipates gusts of up to 120 km / h or 130 km / h in the south-east, which could affect transport and cause power cuts, disrupting mobile phone coverage. The office also warned of wind and high waves debris in coastal areas.

Other areas in the UK, including Wales, Scotland and part of England, are in “yellow alert” for Monday and Tuesday. This is the lowest alert level.

The passage of Ophelia will take place 30 years after the “Great Storm” of October 1987, which killed 18 and uprooted hundreds of thousands of trees in the United Kingdom.