Structural damage, power outages and one fatality after Storm Eunice

A 59-year-old Wexford County Council employee was killed while clearing fallen debris from Storm Eunice on Friday.

The father of one from Clonroe in north Wexford was named locally as Billy Kinsella.

He died in the Ballythomas area of Wexford when a freak gust of wind toppled a tree near to one he had been working to remove.

He had been employed by the council for about six years, having previously worked as a machine operator on the Gorey bypass. Local sources, coming to terms with his death on Friday night, said he had been a highly regarded member of the council’s road crew.

In a statement Wexford County Council said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the employee’s family, work colleagues and friends at this very difficult time.”

His remains were removed to Waterford University Hospital where a postmortem will take place in due course. The Health and Safety Authority and gardaí are investigating.

Minister for Local Government Darragh O’Brien extended sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues.

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Pip Breen said the county had been hit by unusual and severe northerly winds which had felled numerous trees.

“When something like this happens, it puts everything into perspective,” he said. “A man out helping his community and he gets killed in the line of work. It’s after coming as a ferocious shock to the council.”

On Friday night, 28,000 homes and businesses were left without power, and properties were damaged as Storm Eunice unleashed severe winds across large parts of the country throughout the day.

ESB crews, concentrated in the south of the country, were working to reconnect electricity to homes and businesses.

Earlier on Friday, the Government’s crisis management team, the National Emergency Co-Ordination Group, said Storm Eunice had brought some “very strong onshore winds”. There were mean wind speeds of 106km/h with the highest gusts recorded at Roches Point weather station in Co Cork, reaching 137km/h. A wind speed of 172km/h was logged offshore just after 7am at the Fastnet lighthouse off the west Cork coast, according to Met Éireann.

Rainfall was sporadic and variable depending on location, with 25mm recorded over a 24-hour period in areas of the northwest, while snow was also reported in the northwest, especially in Donegal and Roscommon.

Fallen trees

Many trees came down during the storm, the emergency co-ordination group said, blocking some national and regional roads. Structural damage to buildings and some coastal flooding was also reported, with the south and southwest worst affected.

At about 8.15am a large tree fell on a family home in Cobh, Co Cork, with branches smashing through downstairs windows and jutting into the upstairs landing through the roof, attic and ceiling. Electrical and telephone wires lay severed and loose on the ground from the impact.

The owners Jacqui and Kevin O’Regan, were getting ready to go to their home offices, both at the front of the house, when the tree came crashing in.

“I was just finished saying ‘actually it isn’t too bad this morning’, and we thought the storm should be easing off, and next thing bang,” said Mrs O’Regan.

“I have to say I got an awful fright, I was definitely in a state of shock. I was standing there for ages trying to figure out what I was feeling. Do you know what it was? It’s that you realise how vulnerable you are to the elements. You think that because you’re in a house, you’re safe,” she told The Examiner.

The road outside was completely blocked by the fallen trunk.

At noon, Cork County Council issued an update listing more than 80 fallen trees blocking everything from a hospital entrance to schools and roads across the county.

Waterford City and County Council logged approximately 50 calls relating to fallen trees and overhanging branches and Irish Water reported supply issues at Stradbally, Grange, Kill, Ballylaneen and surrounds due to power outages.

There were multiple crashes on the Glenshane Pass in Co Derry – the main Derry to Belfast road – due to snow and ice, though nobody was injured.

Damage from the storm was most extensive in west Cork and Kerry, with some of the worst affected areas including Kilgarvan, Cahersiveen, Milltown, Bandon, Bantry, Ballydehob and Dunmanway.

About 80,000 people were without power by noon on Friday; this was reduced to 44,000 by 5pm. Due to the severity of the damage to the electricity network in the southwest region, some customers in south Kerry and west Cork were expected to be left without power through Friday night and into Saturday morning, ESB Networks said.

The pace of repair was also expected to slow as crews moved away from main supply lines towards those serving only small clusters of homes in more rural areas.

However, a spokesman said while additional contract crews were brought in, it was unlikely they would have to call on further assistance from the UK. In recent months, ESB Networks had dispatched about 20 of its crews to northern England and Scotland after storms Arwen and last month’s Malik caused widespread damage to the supply network.

Status warnings

Status red and status orange weather warnings had been in place for much of the country from the early hours, with schools and colleges in nine counties having been ordered to shut ahead of the storm’s arrival.

The red and orange warnings lapsed by mid-morning when yellow snow, ice and wind advisories came into effect for the remainder of the day and was extended across Ireland until 10am on Saturday.

Met Éireann said there would be falls of sleet and snow with accumulations in some areas and icy stretches, leading to hazardous driving conditions.

The weather will continue to be unsettled over the weekend, with a 24-hour status yellow rain warning being issued for Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo and Sligo from 4pm on Saturday. Persistent rain followed by heavy showers would lead to localised flooding in places, Met Éireann said.

A status yellow wind warning will also be in place for Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Donegal and Connacht from 9am on Sunday until 9am on Monday.

In the UK, a 196.2km/h recorded at The Needles on the Isle of Wight was the highest ever gust of wind recorded in the country.

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