Near record hurricane force winds are continuing to batter Ireland, with forecasters warning of more gales to come.
Emergency services have been on high alert across the country as the high winds took their toll, with heavy rain now also present in many locations.
Flights and ferry sailings have been cancelled, roads have been blocked by fallen trees and thousands of homes have been left without electricity.
Motorists have been warned to take extra-care on main and secondary routes while several bridges are closed to high-vehicles in the north of the island.
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Near-record hurricane winds were recorded off the north coast on Tuesday as an Atlantic storm brought gales gusting to 91 knots, 168kph (103mph) at Malin Head in Donegal - a speed only surpassed seven times previously in Ireland.
Met Eireann – Ireland’s weather service – confirmed that winds were strongest in Connacht and Ulster, with violent storm force 11 battering coasts between Bloody Foreland in Donegal and Fair Head in Co Antrim.
Wind speeds of more than 100km/h were also recorded at Belmullet in County Mayo and at Dublin airport.
Forecaster Siobhán Ryan said: “The hurricane force wind speed recorded at Malin Head was exceptional and ranks among the highest winds in Ireland that we can remember.
“The gusts may have been caused by a sting jet - a rarely occurring surge of high-momentum, high-energy air which appears like a curling scorpion’s tail on weather maps.
“We have seen them before but they are very unusual over Ireland. We are almost certain that a sting jet was responsible for these winds.”
Malin Head Coast Guard Radio station described the winds as hurricane force. Station officer Patsy Canning said: “The winds are very strong and we would ask people not to go near the coastline or put themselves in danger.”
Forecasters have warned that westerly winds could increase to gale force levels with gusts of 100 to 120 km/h to be expected in upland and in coastal areas of Connacht and west Ulster until Thursday morning.
The Met Éireann experts have also predicted that winds could reach storm force 10 on coasts from Slyne Head to Malin Head to Carlingford Lough and for the north Irish Sea.
The storms also claimed a rare tree which was planted by the creator of Connemara’s Kylemore Abbey almost a century and a half ago. Staff at the abbey were said to be heartbroken by the weather felling of the Cupressus macrocarpa, an exotic pine which had grown to almost 20m in height.
The Irish Times reports that the tree had been planted by Mitchell Henry around 1870 after he had built the castle between 1867 and 1871 as a fairytale home for his wife Margaret.
“The rare pine was one of a very few of the same type, but in very shallow soil, which made it vulnerable,” Brid O’Connell of the abbey management team told the paper. “It is the end of an era in that sense, given its links to Mr Henry, and everyone is very sad to see it go.”
The Northern Ireland weather service has also issued gale warnings as Ulster is battered by the strong winds.
Here’s the Sky News weather forecast which shows the serious weather front moving in:
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