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HURRICANE HITS MID-ULSTER.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

HURRICANE HITS MID-ULSTER. thumbnail Emergency services on standby at Dungannon Fire Station yesterday, Monday.

THERE were reports of panic buying across Mid-Ulster as residents braced themselves for the devastating impact of ex-hurricane Ophelia.

Gusts of 80mph were expected across Northern Ireland on Monday as schools, businesses and public amenities shut shop at lunchtime.

At 2pm Dungannon town centre resembled a ghost town, with few shops open and fewer people on the street.

One local trader who was keeping a watchful eye on the deteriorating conditions told the Courier that he was uncertain if he would close but admitted he expected to do little business for the remainder of the day.

In light of the weather The Northern Health and Social Care Trust brought forward many of its services such as renal dialysis and advised patients with outpatient appointments in the afternoon to attend only if they can travel safely.

A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust confirmed it planned to maintain hospital and community services as normal, though did advise that the policy was subject to constant review.

Sinn Fein's Coalisland office also closed early for the day with councillor Niamh Doris advising constituents to stay safe indoors.

As wind picked up Mid-Ulster District Council advised that "as a result of severe weather conditions all council facilities, buildings and services will close at 1pm (Monday).

A spokesperson for the council also advised residents not to visit any parks, play areas or open spaces as the storm moved in.

Translink also confirmed that it would be suspending the majority of its service from 5.30pm in the afternoon.

The storm also forced exam body CCEA to postpone a GCSE exam due to take place on Monday morning until Thursday, (19th October).

As the storm grew in strength, UUP MLA Rosemary Barton criticised the timing of the Department of Education's announcement that Schools should close on Monday.

"While I understand the amber warning in Northern Ireland was not issued until midday on Sunday, I do believe the Department of Education should have been more proactive in reacting to the warning," she said.

Important information regarding closures should have been issued before 10:30pm giving parents more time to arrange potential care for their children." At the time of going to Press it has just been confirmed that all schools will remain closed on Tuesday

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