The former Hurricane Ophelia slammed western Ireland with winds of more than 50 mph and torrential rain on Monday. It had lost some steam since the weekend when it attained Category 3 strength farther east than any Atlantic storm in recorded history, but was still quite powerful.
The Irish Times reported that the storm — no longer tropical — could be the strongest to hit Ireland in 50 years. The Daily Mail reported that the U.K. Met Office had compared the storm to Hurricane Katia, the tail end of which struck the region in 2011.
Ireland’s state-run broadcaster RTE reported at least one death blamed on the storm, a woman killed after a tree fell on her car in Waterford in the country’s southeast. At least 120,000 homes and businesses were without power, according to Ireland’s electricity company.
“Ophelia is a very dangerous storm,” Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Monday.
The storm was expected to lash western Ireland with sustained winds of more than 50 mph, said Met Eireann, Ireland’s weather service, but higher gusts are possible. As it heads north, it is forecast to weaken further.
“This will be a significant weather event for Ireland with potentially high impacts — structural damage and flooding (particularly coastal) — and people are advised to take extreme care,” the Irish meteorological service said. It issued a “red warning,” its highest-level storm alert for the southern and coastal areas.
The U.K. Met Office issued an “amber wind warning” for Northern Ireland, the second-highest alert, where it is predicting wind gusts up to 70-80 mph, and released the following statement:
A spell of very windy weather is expected on Monday in association with ex-Ophelia. Longer journey times and cancellations are likely, as road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected as well as some bridge closures. There is a good chance that power cuts may occur, with the potential to affect other services, such as mobile phone coverage. Flying debris is likely, such as tiles blown from roofs, as well as large waves around coastal districts with beach material being thrown onto coastal roads, sea fronts and properties. This leads to the potential for injuries and danger to life.
Parts of southern and central Scotland and northern England also may face a hazardous combination of tropical storm-force winds and heavy rain.
Because the storm is moving so fast, its powerful blow will be brief, the worst lasting six to 12 hours in most locations. It will leave the British Isles by Tuesday morning.
On Sunday, ahead of the storm, strong southerly winds were drawing abnormally warm conditions into the British Isles, with high temperatures up to 77 degrees (25 Celsius) forecast. The Daily Mail reported that “swarms of deadly jellyfish” (actually, Portuguese man o’ war) had washed ashore on southern beaches.
Ophelia’s place in history
When Ophelia became a major — Category 3 (or higher) — hurricane Saturday, it marked the sixth such storm to form in the Atlantic this year, tied with 1933, 1961, 1964 and 2004 for the most through Oct. 14, according to Phil Klotzbach, tropical weather researcher at Colorado State University.
The storm is most remarkable, however, for where it reached such strength — becoming the first storm to reach Category 3 strength so far east.
Much-above-normal water temperatures and light upper-level winds helped the storm reach such unusual intensity so far north and east in the Atlantic Ocean.
While having a major hurricane so far east in the Atlantic Ocean is rare, it is not particularly unusual for former tropical weather systems to slam into Ireland and the United Kingdom. As we wrote Friday, this happens about once every several years, on average, conservatively.
Brian Murphy contributed to this report.