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Hurricanes Have A New Target: The North Atlantic

Hurricane Ophelia track (file)

When ex-Hurricane Ophelia smashed its way through Ann Elliot’s farm 30 miles outside Dublin on Oct. 16, it left behind destruction and death. “What we saw was just carnage,” she told a local radio show. Four pregnant cattle were electrocuted and killed by a downed power line. “It’s a big financial loss. I was devastated.”

Named after a tragic Shakespearean character, Ophelia was the most powerful storm to hit the Emerald Isle in more than 50 years. It had an “ex” prefixed to its description only because it was recharacterized a post-tropical cyclone instead of a hurricane by the time it barreled into the Irish coast.

Schools and universities were ordered shut for two days. Public transportation services were canceled, and major shopping stores shuttered their doors. It fueled the highest wave — 58 feet — and the highest wind speeds ever recorded here.

“It was as bad, probably slightly worse, than anything we’ve experienced. That wave height was phenomenal,” says Aodhan FitzGerald, the research vessel manager at the Irish Marine Institute, who has worked on the Atlantic Ocean’s high seas for 11 years. In Spain and Portugal, the storm’s high winds have been blamed for fueling forest fires that killed dozens of people.

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