By Clodagh Kilcoyne
LAHINCH, Ireland (Reuters) – A woman was killed as Tropical Storm Ophelia battered Ireland’s southern coast on Monday, knocking down trees and power lines and whipping up 10-metre (30-foot) waves.
Over 230,000 homes and businesses were without electricity with more outages expected and almost 150 flights were canceled from Ireland’s two main airports at Dublin and Shannon.
The woman in her 50s was killed by a tree falling on her car in the southeastern county of Waterford, police said. A female passenger in her 70s was injured. Police corrected an earlier report that the victim was in her 20s.
The storm, downgraded from a hurricane overnight, was the worst to hit Ireland in half a century. It made landfall after 10:40 a.m. (0940 GMT), the Irish National Meteorological Service said, with winds as strong as 176 kph (110 mph) hitting the most southerly tip of the country and flooding likely.
“These gusts are life-threatening. Do not be out there,” the chairman of Ireland’s National Emergency Coordination Group, Sean Hogan, said on national broadcaster RTE.
Schools, hospitals and public transport services were closed and the armed forces were sent to bolster flood defences. Photos on social media showed the roof of a stand at Cork City soccer club’s Turner’s Cross stadium had collapsed.
Hurricane Ophelia image captured by NASA is seen in space, October 14, 2017 in this still obtained from social media. NASA SPORT/ via REUTERS
Hurricane force winds are expected in every part of the country, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, advising people to stay indoors. The transport minister said it was not safe to drive.
“While the storm in some parts of the country is not yet that bad, it is coming your way,” Varadkar told a news conference.
Britain’s meteorological service put an Amber Weather Warning into effect for Northern Ireland from 1400-2100 GMT, saying the storm posed a danger to life and was likely to cause transport cancellations, power cuts and flying debris.
“Impactful weather” is expected in other western and northern parts of the United Kingdom, it said.
British media are comparing Ophelia to the “Great Storm” of 1987, which subjected parts of the United Kingdom to hurricane strength winds 30 years ago to the day.
The storm is expected to move towards western Scotland overnight.
The Irish government said the storm was likely to be the worst since Hurricane Debbie, which killed 11 in Ireland in 1961.
It is likely to pass close to a west of Ireland golf course owned by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been planning a wall to protect its greens from coastal erosion.
Similar sized storms in the past have changed the shape of stretches of the Irish coastline, climatologists said.
(Additional reporting and writing by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Robin Pomeroy)