Three years ago, I moved to Florida for five months as a member of the Walt Disney World College Program. While there, I never once experienced a hurricane. The most inclement weather we had was a tornado warning that kept us in the shop for the day and highly annoyed the guests.
As a child in California, I was in one small earthquake. As an adolescent in Missouri, there were so many tornadoes that I got to the point of sleeping through one of them. There, I also survived the Great Ice Storm of 2007. As a college student in Colorado, there were a number of blizzards. But through all of that, I was never in a hurricane.
So of course on the day I'm meant to leave Ireland for a trip to Scotland, Hurricane Ophelia decides to show up.
Inclement weather is a frequent occurrence in Ireland and few people were phased by the thought of a hurricane approaching. If the world were coming to an end, the Irish would stand there and say everything was grand and ask if anyone would like a cup of tea. Preparing for the hurricane was no different; the typical social media response was to make relatable puns and jokes. While some were worried, most believed Ophelia wouldn't be as bad as predicted.
On Sunday, Bus Eireann announced all school buses across the nation were cancelled for Monday. Next, Aer Lingus began cancelling flights (including mine,) with Cork Airport soon following. Colleges and a good majority of businesses also closed. Almost all transportation was halted. As with snow days, the day off was welcome. Cork, Kerry, Galway, Clare and Mayo were all placed under a Red Warning until Tuesday, with the rest of the country under orange.
Monday morning began as any other wet day in Ireland. The wind started to pick up, which isn't unusual for this time of year. Only a few hours later, Ophelia made her grand debut. As someone said on Twitter, whoever named the hurricane Ophelia was just asking for it to head in the direction of the UK (and Ireland.)
Praise be to God, my street and estate were left largely unaffected. Bins stayed upright and only garden chairs were knocked over. A metal fence across the street seemed to bend inward, but our hilly location was perfect shelter for the storm. Other places weren't so lucky. A school on the other side of Douglas had its gym roof blown off. Roofs were damaged in Turner's Cross and Kinsale. 215,000 people all across the county are without power - another thing we were blessed with, as our power never went out. While the wifi had its moments, it also stayed on for the most part.
Having never been in a hurricane and only watching it on the news, I expected to see twisters form. Of course Ireland isn't hot or humid enough for a twister, but the thought didn't cross my mind at the time. Everything I had been taught in school was useless. I couldn't stay away from glass and hide in the bathroom like in a tornado; every room in this house has a window. So instead, I watched the hurricane through my bedroom window, and then through the open door. Thankfully, I was in a house built in Ireland; Irish houses are usually made out of stone or brick and a house founded on rock does not fall.
Three people have been confirmed dead in the country - the first, a Waterford woman who was a nurse in Cork; the second, a man from Tipperary, attempting to clear a tree; and the third, a man from Louth, who lost his life when a tree fell on his car.
The Irish Independent stated that "the public's adherence to warnings to remain indoors is credited with preventing further loss of life during the storm."
I also want to credit the incredible people of this great country. Many pitched in to bring food and blankets to Cork city's homeless crowd on Sunday night. Shops that did stay open welcomed people that needed shelter from the storm, providing them with food and drinks. Media, particularly Corks RedFM, did an excellent job of keeping the public informed. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told people to stay inside. No one was prepared for a hurricane - a hurricane in Ireland? Perish the thought! But 'tis grand, a bit of rain never hurt anyone - and yet, everyone seemed to know exactly what to do.
Cleanup began almost instantaneously. Crews from both Cork County and Cork City Councils worked through the night to clear debris. The storm was yesterday; today, work has resumed, but schools are still closed.
It was Ireland's worst storm in 50 years. Today, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and it's a lovely day in Cork. There's something to be said for how the Irish came together during Ophelia and stayed indoors, as instructed.
And yes, my roommate even put the kettle on.