Ophelia weakens, but still threatens Ireland with worst storm in 50 years
Atlantic storm may affect road, rail, air and ferry services; could also hit Trump golf course
The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia could bring wind gusts of 130 km/h, disruption and damage to Ireland and Britain as the workweek gets underway, weather services said Sunday.
Ophelia weakened to a Category 1 hurricane as it moved north-northeast across the Atlantic, with sustained winds of 145 km/h.
It is expected to be downgraded to a post-tropical storm before making landfall in southern Ireland Monday morning, but U.K. Met Office forecaster Luke Miall said it could still pack "hurricane force" winds.
Ireland's Met Eireann weather service said the country's southern and western counties could get gusts of up to 130 km/h along with heavy rain and storm surges.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm could bring more than five centimetres of rain in western Ireland and Scotland, with coastal flooding and "large and destructive waves" where it makes landfall.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ophelia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ophelia</a> now has 100 mph winds - the strongest an Atlantic hurricane has been this far east (35.5°W) this late in calendar year on record. <a href="https://t.co/6NPJvp2jCP">pic.twitter.com/6NPJvp2jCP</a>—@philklotzbach
Emergency officials in Ireland said schools would be closed Monday in the eight counties expected to see the strongest winds which are under a red weather alert, the highest level. Cyclists and motorists were warned to stay off the roads during the height of the storm.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted: "Defence forces being deployed in Red weather alert areas and on standby for further action tomorrow."
Dublin and Shannon airports advised passengers to check flight information before travelling, while Cork airport in southwest Ireland said cancellations were likely.
Britain's Met Office said the 130 km/h gusts could hit Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and warned of potential power cuts, flying debris and disruption to transportation and phone signals. Strong winds could also hit Scotland, Wales and England.
'Extreme weather event'
"You should not be out in this storm ... this is an extreme weather event," the chairman of Ireland's National Emergency Coordination Group Sean Hogan said at a briefing.
Asked if it was likely to be the worst storm in half a century, he said the "comparable weather event" was Hurricane Debbie, which killed 12 in Ireland in 1961. Ophelia has the potential to be a life-threatening event in Ireland, he said.
The storm is likely to pass close to the coastal village of Doonbeg in County Clare and a golf course owned by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been planning a wall to protect its greens from coastal erosion.
The storm has the potential to reshape stretches of the Irish coast, John Sweeney, a climatologist at Maynooth University, said.
"It is going to be perhaps an event comparable to Debbie in 1961 which has effectively marked many of the coastlines of the west coast of Ireland to the present day," Sweeney told state broadcaster RTE.
With files from Reuters