An emergency response meeting is taking place in Derry this morning as schools close across the north west today amid warnings that ex-Hurricane Ophelia could cause widespread disruption and damage.
Council officials have urged members of the public to stay safe and take precautions to secure their properties, following a weather warning being upgraded to red for the whole of Ireland overnight.
Met Eireann has said that “violent and destructive gusts are forecast with all areas at risk”.
They have also warned that heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding.
“There is potential risk to lives,” the forecasters have warned.
The storm is expected to hit the north west region this afternoon with the latest report stating that the alert is in place for the north from 3pm today through until 1am on Tuesday.
The warning has prompted Derry & Strabane Council to initiate its Emergency Preparedness Response after meetings with its internal team and the Western Emergency Preparedness Group.
Plans are now being put in place to provide advice, reassurance and support to the public ahead of the adverse weather conditions.
The Council has decided to close St Columb’s Park in Derry and Claudy Country Park from 12 noon today as a precautionary measure with other services under review.
Local people have also been urged to be cautious when walking in any wooded, tree populated ares or outdoor spaces.
Local people are also advised not to leave bins or food waste caddies out where they could cause an obstruction or be blown out on to roads and to expect some disruption to refuse collections on Monday and into Tuesday.
Arrangements are being put into place to provide rest centres should they be needed, and officials are in contact with community organisations to initiate their community resilience plans if necessary.
Road users are being advised to check Traffic Watch NI in relation to road closures and not to make any unnecessary journeys.
Council Chief Executive John Kelpie says the onus is on everyone to work together to reduce the risk of injury to the pubic and damage to property.
He urged people to follow the advice provided by the multi agencies in relation to Emergency preparedness and assured the public that agencies are working in a proactive and collaborative manner to have adequate provisions and staff in place to deal with issues that may result from the storm.
A further meeting of the multi-agencies is taking place this morning to review the situation and make the appropriate decisions.
The Department of Education meanwhile has advised that all schools should close today, with North West Regional College also cancelling all classes.
Members of the public are asked to note the following numbers in case of emergency:
Emergency services – 999 or 112
Housing Executive – 03448 920 901
Northern Ireland Electricity Networks – 03457 643 643
NI Gas Emergency Service – 0800 002 001
Northern Ireland Water Waterline – 03457 440 088
Flooding Incident Line – 0300 2000 100