Province is battered but escapes worst of storm

A woman passes the harbour area in Porstewart Co-Derry where severe gales hit the north coast of Ireland on Thursday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin ? please by-line
A woman passes the harbour area in Porstewart Co-Derry where severe gales hit the north coast of Ireland on Thursday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin ? please by-line

NORTHERN Ireland escaped the worst of yesterday’s storm which brought chaos and disruption to other northern parts of the UK.

However, the gale force winds – which had prompted an amber weather warning – brought down trees, closing roads across the province, and caused delays for rail and ferry passengers.

Today the winds will ease to a strong breeze, but ice and snow are expected to bring more hazards and potential delays.

In Londonderry, the Foyle Bridge was closed for a time yesterday, while pedestrians in the city were also warned to stay off the new Peace Bridge.

Lisnagelvin Primary School in the Waterside was forced to close early when debris blew from the roof of the nearby leisure centre.

Trains on the Bangor, Larne and Londonderry lines were affected by speed restrictions and passengers were warned that delays and service alterations were likely.

Homes right across Northern Ireland experienced power cuts, although NIE said the scale of the disruption was “relatively low” in comparison with previous storm blackouts.

“We were well warned about this storm and were well prepared for any power cuts,” a spokesperson for NIE said.

“All scheduled works were cancelled for the day, which allowed all our staff to concentrate on any calls we received from customers.

“Despite the severity of the winds, the level of disruption to the network has been relatively low and any calls we have had from customers have been dealt with swiftly.”

The north coast saw some of the strongest gusts, with wind speeds of 90mph recorded at Malin Head in Donegal, while Orlock Head on the Co Down coast saw gusts of 80mph.

Roads Service staff were called out to clear fallen trees and other debris from routes in almost every council area in Northern Ireland.

Sean McCarry from the Northern Ireland Community Rescue Service, which experienced a quiet day, warned the public not to become complacent.

“Thankfully, the storm seems to have passed though with no serious incidents caused by the weather so far,” Mr McCarry told the News Letter yesterday.

“Even though the winds will have dropped considerably by the weekend, there are still a lot of hazards out there.

“The rivers are extremely high at the moment. Many have burst their banks and some minor roads are flooded, so I would urge people to stay well away from them – and with the drop in temperatures, we could also face the dangers of black ice and snow.

“Bad weather in winter brings with it a lot of dangers and people should take care, whether they are driving on the roads or just walking outdoors.”

Helen Rossington from MeteoGroup UK said yesterday’s storm had lived up to its amber warning.

“Northern Ireland experienced some very strong winds, but a lot less severe than the gusts which have battered Scotland. It was inevitable that there would be some disruption but I think everyone has been well warned and prepared,” she said.

Amidst yesterday’s gales there was some warm comfort with the announcement that a quarter of a million people in Northern Ireland are to receive either £100 or £75 back from Stormont to compensate for the high cost of fuel over the winter.

The one-off payments will be automatically paid in February to cancer sufferers, those receiving pension credit and individuals on several employment benefits.

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