Storm Ophelia passes over Athlone

Historic storm Ophelia battered Ireland on Monday. While the Midlands was spared the worst of the extreme weather, public transport and business was disrupted, property was damaged, and power cut in parts of the region.

Originating as a category three hurricane in the Atlantic ocean, Ophelia was a post-tropical storm by the time it made landfall in Ireland on Monday morning and worked its way up the west coast.

The storm brought winds of between 80 and 111 km/h, prompting Met Éireann to issue a red weather alert across the whole country, warning people of a “danger to life and property.”

In Athlone, shops and schools closed as gale force winds smashed fences, uprooted trees, and even lifted the roof off an apartment building. A car in The Moorings housing estate on the Ballymahon Road was crushed under a tree.

While three people died around the country as a result of the storm, there were no casualties in Athlone.

As of Tuesday, several thousand properties across the midlands were still without power. The ESB has said that completely restoring power may take a number of days. Crews have being brought in from France and Britain to help with the restoration. Defense forces personnel have also been deployed to clear trees and identify fallen lines.

Widespread damage to communications infrastructure has also been reported. According to telecoms company Eir, 11,000 of its customers were without telephone and broadband services as of Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Aengus O’Rourke (FF ) said the Government was correct to batten down the hatches as Ophelia approached.

“I’d like to pay tribute to all those who were on standby,” the mayor said. “The HSE, Gardaí, fire and ambulance services and ESB crews were all on the front lines. It certainly gave everybody a great sense of comfort to know that they were there if and when needed.”

Bus Éireann suspended all of its services on Monday, but resumed normal operation on Tuesday morning. All roads around Athlone are passable, but the AA has urged caution on secondary and local roads which may still be affected by debris and flooding.

Minister for the Office of Public Works, Kevin “Boxer” Moran, has lamented the loss of life that occurred during ex-hurricane Ophelia, but said the situation could have been much worse had the Government not reacted in the manner that it did.

“You look at Athlone, the trees that fell in The Moorings, the wall that fell at the back of the Shamrock Lodge, the tree that fell with the ESB lines near the White Gates, the tree that fell down on top of a house out in Cornamagh. If people were left to go about their daily lives, those trees could have fell on small children, if people went down to use the cycleway they could have been killed by falling trees,” he commented.

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