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Thursday 5 December 2019

Thankfully, ex-storm Lorenzo ran out of steam

Lorenzo was a Category 5 hurricane and was the first of its kind ever recorded so far east in the North Atlantic Ocean
Lorenzo was a Category 5 hurricane and was the first of its kind ever recorded so far east in the North Atlantic Ocean

Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

It was a relief to everyone that hurricane Lorenzo fizzled out without causing any significant damage albeit some serious flooding in south Donegal, other localised spot flooding around the country, power outages, trees down and associated storm debris.

Navan-man Francis Beaufort was the first to try to bring some order to the recording of winds at sea. In his day, ships carried no instruments to measure wind speed so in 1805 he devised the Beaufort Wind Scale.

The scale devised by Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort was based on observation rather than on measurement. Captains assessed the state of the sea and decided on a number between 0 and 12 to describe what they were looking at, 0 being flat calm and 12 being mountainous waves.

The first time the new scale was officially used by the British admiralty was on the voyage of HMS Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his epic voyage prior to the formulation of the theory of evolution.

Today, wind speed is measured accurately by instruments, but weather forecasts still refer to events like 'storm force 10' linking us back to Beaufort's ground-breaking work over 200 years ago.

While words to describe wind speed are defined scientifically as technical terms, in popular use the word 'gale' is an umbrella term for strong to very strong wind. 'Storm' is usually used for a strong gale accompanied by heavy rain.

'Hurricane' is not a term that is often used in Ireland. The term is used to describe the very strongest wind speeds. These are subdivided into five groups: Category 1 (the least damaging) to Category 5 (the very worst). In other parts of the world the terms 'cyclone' and 'typhoon' are used to describe what we call hurricane-force winds.

Oíche na gaoithe móire, the night of the big wind, the night of Sunday 6th and Monday 7th January 1839, saw Ireland battered by what was effectively a Category 3 hurricane. The extreme event killed some 300 people and wreaked destruction across the country.

Lorenzo was a Category 5 hurricane and was the first of its kind ever recorded so far east in the North Atlantic Ocean. Dorian that struck the Bahamas in September was also a Category 5 hurricane. Lorenzo's track directly towards Ireland initially caused extreme concern but fortunately for us it morphed into an ex-Lorenzo storm and gale, ran out of steam and fizzled out without causing any significant damage.

Wexford People

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