LONDON (AP) — Irish authorities ordered all schools in the country to close Monday and warned cyclists and motorists to stay off roads as Hurricane Ophelia bore down on Ireland and the U.K. with potentially deadly winds.
Ophelia weakened to a Category 1 hurricane Sunday as it moved north-northeast across the Atlantic, with sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph).
It is expected to be downgraded to a post-tropical storm before making landfall in southern Ireland Monday morning, but U.K. Met Office forecaster Luke Miall said it could still pack “hurricane force” winds.
Ireland’s Met Eireann weather service warned of “violent and destructive gusts” of up to 80 mph (130 kph) along with heavy rain and storm surges, as the storm crossed the country.
The Irish weather service issued a red warning, the highest level, for the whole country, and officials said schools and colleges across Ireland would be closed Monday. Cyclists and motorists were warned to stay off the roads during the height of the storm, and most ferry crossings between Ireland and Britain were canceled.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm could bring two to three inches (50 to 75 millimeters) of rain in western Ireland and Scotland, with coastal flooding and “large and destructive waves” where it makes landfall.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted: “Defence forces being deployed in Red weather alert areas and on standby for further action tomorrow.”
Dublin and Shannon airports advised passengers to check flight information before traveling, while Cork airport in southwest Ireland said cancellations were likely.
Britain’s Met Office said 80-mph gusts could hit Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and warned of potential power cuts, flying debris and disruption to transport and phone signals. Strong winds could also hit Scotland, Wales and England. •
By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press