#OPHELIA: Everything Limerick people need to know about the hurricane threat

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh



#OPHELIA: Everything Limerick people need to know about the hurricane threat

Council men at work, activating flood barriers Picture: Michael Cowhey

People all over Limerick are preparing for Hurricane Ophelia, so we have put together a list of frequently asked questions with answers to help allay your concerns. Didn't answer your question? Contact us at news@limerickleader.ie

Where did Hurricane Ophelia start?

This Atlantic Hurricane was located south of the Azores last week. It is a rare ‘Category 3’ hurricane that is likely to develop, overtime, into a powerful post-tropical storm.


When are we going to expect the severe weather?

It is unpredictable in Limerick, but the Hurricane itself is on high alert to be passing through the country from 6am, at the very south, and exiting the country at 12am. It is possible that we can expect strong winds and rain prior to its arrival in Ireland.

What kind of conditions are we looking at?

Met Éireann is more firm in its tone, as of Sunday at 8pm. There will be violent and destructive gusts passing through the country for the whole day.


Is it dangerous?

Experts are saying that Hurricane Ophelia has the potential to be as dangerous as Hurricane Debbie, which caused the deaths of 15 people in Ireland in September 1961. This means that Hurricane Ophelia is one the worst weather disasters to hit Ireland in more than half a century. Gardaí have said that there is a potential risk to lives.


What are some of the authority’s main health concerns?

There is a great concern for falling trees and downed power lines. The gardaí have said that the public should assume that they are live and should report to emergency services.


Is Limerick City and County Council prepared?

The local authority has responded to the hurricane threat by activating a number of flood barriers in Limerick over the weekend. Engineers held a number of meetings to discuss what measures were required, and have carried out a number of flood defences. For public safety, they have cancelled public meetings.


What’s the difference between this and Storm Darwin in February 2014?

While the winds are stronger and we are expecting heavy rain, the maximum tide is not as high as Darwin and the council appears to be more prepared with stronger flood defences.


Are we expecting flooding?

If you are living near the coast, there will be destructive waves. It is hoped that we will be protected by the barriers from the potential waves of the River Shannon. The maximum tide is moderately high, but when there is a combination of high tides, strong winds and heavy rainfall, that is when the likelihood of flooding occurs.  


What about power outages?

Yes, there is a strong possibility. Which is why you should call ESB Networks emergency line at 1850 372999 or Gas Networks Ireland - 1850 205050.


I can’t find the right contacts for the emergency services.

Emergency services - 999/112, Limerick City and County Council - 061 556000, or Limerick Council (out of hours) - 061 417833.

Should I exercise caution while travelling?

Yes, certainly. Now that the whole country has been issued a ‘Red Alert’ weather warning, we must all be vigilant when outside. It is imperative that you clear your back or front garden of any rubbish bins, patio furniture, or equipment, as these can be turned into missiles in the wind. Injuries - minor, severe, and fatal - can arise from falling trees and cables with strong winds. Be extra cautious of debris on the road. Follow AA Roadwatch on Twitter for regular road updates and inform others of road disruptions.


Are schools closed?

It looks like all schools are closed, as advised by the Department of Education. UL, Mary Immaculate College, LIT and Limerick College of Further Education have shut their doors, too.


Is it just schools?

No. Others include the Limerick court service, Revenue offices, school transport, Limerick Youth Centre, a number of cafés, and a long list of businesses in the city and county. All customer appointments with the Department of Social Protection offices are closed, too.


I have a bus to catch in the morning, will I be affected?

There are no bus services from 5am to 2pm. Other than that, more than likely, yes. It depends on where you are, but Bus Éireann has issued a statement saying that there will be likely disruptions. In treacherous conditions such as this, cautious driving is advised, hence you might experience delays.


I generally cycle to work, is it safe to do so, even if I exercise caution?

Monday is a “no bike day”. No.


I have to go to work tomorrow and it requires driving. What should I do?

People have been urged to not make any unnecessary journeys, but if you are driving, be ultra cautious of other drivers. If you are driver of high-sided vehicle or a motorcyclist, be cognisant of the potential strength of the wind. If you are scheduled to do your driving test on Monday, you are advised to not turn up to the test centre.


What if I have an accident, can I still go to hospital?

Yes. University Hospital Limerick and St John’s Hospital is fully-equipped to deal with emergency scenarios, having launched a master plan last year. However, UHL still suffers from a severe overcrowding problem, and patients are advised to be aware of the small injuries unit at St John’s, Ennis or Nenagh. If it is an emergency, go to the emergency department. However, patients are advised to not travel to hospital unless it’s absolutely necessary.


Is my GP working?

Contact your GP first thing in the morning to find out. The HSE has said that all its health centres in the Mid-West are closed, but the situation is constantly under review. They advise changes through the local media, including the Limerick Leader.


I have an appointment at the hospital, and I am not sure if it’s still on.

It isn’t. The UL Hospitals Group has cancelled all appointments and surgeries at UHL, St John’s, Croom, Nenagh, Ennis and University Maternity Hospital Limerick on Monday. You will be contacted to reschedule.


I am due to fly tomorrow, am I affected?

If you are flying out of Shannon Airport, you may be. So far, flights to and from Edinburgh, Birmingham and London-Heathrow have been cancelled. To confirm, you may check your flight status online through your airline.


What about the vulnerable, such as the elderly?

It is important to look out for your elderly neighbours during this time, as we may experience power outages throughout the day.

What about the homeless?

Homeless people will be particularly vulnerable, but Novas homeless services has confirmed that it will providing 24-7 shelter in Limerick, so that no homeless person is sleeping rough during the Ophelia’s arrival. If you are at risk of homelessness, are homeless or see someone sleeping rough, call Novas at 1800 606060.


Still unsure about something? Just ask and we will find out. E-mail us at news@limerickleader.ie.