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New Year comes in with a storm

The storms in the Achill area last week managed to tip over the Achill Tourist Information Office, which is used during the busy summer period.
The storms in the Achill area last week managed to tip over the Achill Tourist Information Office, which is used during the busy summer period. ?Pic: Jake Scott

New Year comes in with a storm

Áine Ryan

AS violent storm force winds were forecast to batter the west coast last night, the unsettled weather pattern that has dominated the Christmas period is set to continue for the coming days.
Met Éireann warned yesterday that south-westerly gale force winds could reach violent storm force 11 in the northwest last night (Monday). The national weather service also issued a small craft warning and a notification of heavy swell along the west coast. The southwesterly storms are due to veer west to north-west this morning, Tuesday, and to decrease for a time to gale or strong-gale force. However, they may increase to storm force later today.
Clare Island ferry services, transporting islanders and visitors to and from the Clew bay outpost, were forced to divert to Clochmór in Achill and Old Head, Louisburgh, over the last two days due to high swells at Roonagh Pier.
Although the Met service has predicted changeable and unsettled weather for most of the week, there are signs of improving conditions towards the end of the week. Forecasters say it will become milder by Friday and over the weekend, with a little rain and drizzle at times and no significant frost at night.

Tourist office tumble
While the bad weather may have little influence on the economic depression, it did manage to upturn Achill’s tourist office last week. The squally winds flipped over the pre-fab building, which is used as a summer office, and landed it on nearby Keel Strand. Fortunately, there was nobody in it during its sudden flight onto the beach. 
Achill Tourism Manager, Helen Applegarth revealed that a similar incident occurred at a summer funfair last July when a gust of wind turned a lorry on to its side.
Ms Applegarth confirmed that the building, which is about 20ft long and 10ft wide, had not been too damaged.  

Spring in the air
Meanwhile, whether it is the vagaries of global warming, or just variations in the cross-millennial patterns of the weather, it appears that spring has already invaded the flowerbeds of north Connemara.
Strawberry plants are fruiting and climbing roses and daffodils are beginning to bloom in the gardens of historic Kylemore Abbey. 
The abbey’s head gardener, Ms Anja Gohlke, has confirmed that ‘unusual weather patterns’ have ‘perplexed the plants’ to such a degree that some of them are four months ahead of their normal seasonal cycle.
Interestingly, while daffodil shoots are about five inches above the ground, the new strawberries are almost white because there is not enough sunlight to turn them red.
Apparently, Kylemore’s proximity to the sea means that ground temperatures have been minus two degrees at their lowest.
“We had summer in April, a monsoon in August and now the plants thinks it’s spring,” she said. “Daffodils have broken through the ground and are lining the avenue to the Gothic church.”