Storm Ellen has hit the southwest coast of Ireland with “very severe and destructive” winds expected over Co Cork in the coming hours.
The worst of Wednesday’s storm system is due to hit the country at 11pm with fallen trees and damage to roads and homes expected.
Met Éireann issued a status red warning for Cork from 9pm on Wednesday to midnight on Thursday while a status orange wind warning has also been issued for the rest of Munster along with Galway and Mayo.
A yellow wind warning is in place for the entire country from 9pm on Wednesday until midnight on Thursday.
While the worst of the strong winds are set to have passed by Thursday morning, the forecaster warned of heavy rain with a a risk of flooding over the coming days. Temperatures on Thursday are set to range between 17 to 20 degrees Celsius with the heaviest of the rain and strong winds hitting the country in the afternoon.
According to ESB Networks, 1,864 homes in North Cork have been left without power after a line was damaged near Fermoy while another outage near Kinsale left 11 homes without electricity.
Another power line has come down at Castleview near Little island leaving another 325 homes without power as ESB Networks repair crews battle rain and wind to restore power to homes.
Meanwhile, Bus Éireann suspended all Cork services from 8pm until 1am as Met Éireann warned that Storm Ellen could see winds gusting over 130km/h.
The Irish Coast Guard has urged people to keep away from coastal areas and according to the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Valentia, most seafarers have made for port.
However, the Maersk owned container ship, the 210 metre Maersk Niteroi departed the Port of Cork’s terminal at Ringaskiddy escorted by a Port of Cork tug as she headed for the open sea.
The Port of Cork posted footage from its pilot boat showing the Maersk Niteroi heading into increasingly choppy seas as spray and surf is blown up at the ship as she heads past Roches Point and into the Celtic Sea
Cork County Council earlier advised home owners around the county, particularly in coastal areas, to stay indoors.
“Property owners, residents and visitors are advised to prepare for this dangerous weather event, to protect property, to avoid unnecessary journeys and stay indoors during the warning periods,” the council in a statement.
Those camping or in caravans were urged by the council to seek alternative accommodation indoors, as temporary structures are particularly at risk, prompting thousands of holiday makers in campsites and caravan parks in both east Cork and west Cork to pack up and head home for the night.
According to the council, members of the public are advised to stay away from the coast, rivers and lakes as Storm Ellen hits.
Meanwhile, carparks in Salthill, Co Galway will be closed until the warning has been lifted, due to potential coastal flooding.
Galway City Council said crews will be on standby overnight and will be on-site across the city from 5am on Thursday morning for any potential flooding or wind damage. The council said its Severe Weather Assessment Team will continue to monitor the situation and will put measures in place as necessary.
Meteorologist Joan Blackburn said Storm Ellen would be a “quick event” and that she did not expect the current wind warnings to be extended beyond 8am on Thursday. However, Met Éireann does expect to issue a rainfall warning for thundery downpours on Thursday afternoon, she said.
The forecaster may issue another wind warning for Thursday night but “not at the same level as this evening”, she said.
Ms Blackburn described the arrival of a storm of this nature in August as “unusual” but not unprecedented, noting that Hurricane Charlie hit the country at the same time of year in 1986.
“This will not be a record storm,” she said.
The National Directorate of Fire and Emergency Management Crisis Management Team met on Wednesday morning and said local authorities were deploying temporary flood defences and putting response staff on standby in preparation for the storm.
“Trees are in full leaf, with the potential for significant numbers of trees to fall blocking roads and damaging power lines,” it said. “ESB Networks are preparing for significant power outages with staff on standby to repair faults in all areas.”
Minister for Planning Darragh O’Brien urged people to adhere to the Met Éireann’s weather warnings. He said those on holidays in unfamiliar locations should pay particular attention to the local weather forecast and those in camping sites along the coast to take extra precautions and move to secure ground.
“Many people are away on holidays in coastal counties at this time. They might not be familiar with the area and need to stay back from the coast so that they can remain safe,” he said.
Mr O’Brien and his officials had also been in contact with local authorities to ensure that every support is made available to rough sleepers and others experiencing homelessness.
He added that “now is not the time to participate in water sports or activities”.
Gerard O’Flynn, head of operations with the Coast Guard, appealed to the public not to take part in any form of coastal activity and “to be mindful of the risk posed by the extreme tide ranges”.
Mr O’Flynn also said the public should “avoid the temptation to try and get a fancy photograph or a selfie”.
“It’s not the time to be taking a risk,” he said.
Mr O’Flynn added that this evening will not “be a time to be out and about”.
“You have the worst combination in terms of weather – you have southerly or southeasterly winds, low pressure and then a forecast of heavy rain,” he said. “Everything is pointing towards very challenging circumstances and localised flooding.”
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is advising road users in the area affected not to make any non-essential journeys during the storm window. Road users are advised to check local traffic and weather reports before setting out on a journey once the red warning has passed as storm damage could impact routes.
Anyone who comes across fallen or damaged electricity wires is being asked to contact the ESB on 1850 372999.
Met Éireann has also issued an advisory for unseasonably wet and windy weather for the week.
It said windy weather on Thursday and Friday may result in unsafe conditions on high ground, lakes and sea areas.
Weather advisories may be issued by Met Éireann to provide early information on potential hazardous weather beyond 48 hours.
Conditions will continue to be stormy along western coasts on Thursday morning and afternoon as heavy and thundery showers spread northwards along with some sunny spells.
Fresh to strong and gusty southerly winds will be stronger along exposed coasts throughout the day with gale force winds at times along western coasts. Highest temperatures will be between 16 to 19 degrees.
A further spell of wet and windy weather will move into Atlantic coastal counties early in the night, extending across the country overnight with further heavy and possibly thundery bursts. Lowest temperatures of 11 to 14 degrees in fresh to strong and gusty southerly winds with near gale or gale force winds near coasts.
It will remain windy in many areas on Friday. The rain will clear to showers in the southern half of the country during the morning as the rain continues to push northeastwards. Highest temperatures of between 17 and 20 degrees, with showers continuing through the night, most frequent in Atlantic coastal counties with clear spells elsewhere. Lowest temperatures of 11 to 14 degrees in moderate to fresh southwesterly winds.
Saturday is due to be fresh and breezy with sunny spells and scattered showers, heaviest along the Atlantic coast. Highest temperatures of 15 to 19 degrees in moderate to fresh westerly winds.
Showers will become more confined to the west and northwest overnight with the best of the clear spells over the midlands. Lowest temperatures of 10 to 13 degrees in light to moderate westerly breezes.
Sunday will be mostly cloudy with scattered showers and just some sunny spells. It will feel cooler with highest temperatures generally of 14 to 18 degrees but reaching 19 degrees near southern coasts.