A massive winter storm is set to hit Ireland with hurricane-like winds and flooding on Sunday night and Monday authorities say.

Coastal areas are expected to be hardest hit and major flooding alerts have been issued for counties Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Clare and Galway.

The surprise winter storm will pack a real punch say Irish weather forecaster,s who have issued an early alert of severe flooding and dangerous driving conditions.

The Irish Army are set to be called in and aircraft have been put on stand by to deal with the worst of the storm. Up to 400 troops are on standby if needed.

Limerick City Council Crisis Management Team has begun placing sand bags at vulnerable points along the river in the city center.

Authorities have warned people to stay home and not to drive unless absolutely neccessary because of fear of fallen trees and road blockages.