Ben the dog makes his way across sandbags in Sandymount, Dublin, yesterday

THE full impact of the major storm developing in the north Atlantic is expected to be felt across Ireland this afternoon, Met Eireann has warned.

Preparations for the storm's arrival were in full swing this morning with sandbags distributed throughout flood risk areas and emergency crews placed on standby.

Flood alerts were put out on Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Clare and Galway in anticipation of heavy winds and rainfall. In Dublin, the coast strip between Clontarf and Sandymount – which was yesterday flanked by sandbags – is under the most severe threat from midnight tonight through to tomorrow afternoon. The HSE, Dublin City Council and gardaí are meeting regularly over the weekend with a view to heading off any major incidents.

Drivers were being asked to take extreme caution with highly dangerous cross winds expected to threaten the country's roads.

Motorists were warned by the Irish Water Safety Association (IWSA) to avoid the temptation to drive through heavily flooded areas, particularly in the vicinity of rivers.

The Defence Forces has been called in to assist in the aftermath of any major problems, with personnel, vehicles and emergency supplies distributed throughout the country.

According to Met Eireann, today and tomorrow should see the worst of the impact with winds at times reaching as high as 100kmh.

"The south and west will see the most rain, up to 40mm in 36 hours. There are tides that are higher than normal, storm surges and big seas, low pressure which helps raise sea levels and heavy rains," a spokesman said.

"The last week or two have been quite wet, which means the soil and ground is saturated so we expect spot flooding on Sunday and Monday."

Especially high tides on the east coast – the highest since March 2007 – will come at midnight tonight and noon tomorrow when the worst of the effects are anticipated.

Thousands of sandbags were being left outside coastal homes in Dublin by council workers last night and a spokesman said that if residents did not put them in position, they would.

"People should be very careful," he said yesterday ahead of the storm. "The biggest risk is walking in a flooded area and falling down a manhole which may have shifted. We're hoping the weather will shift in our favour."

Irish Rail is monitoring the capital's Dart line for debris or other hazards while the ESB will check its dam flows on the Liffey as an indicator of flood activity.

In Cork, the public have been warned about parking cars along the quays which have been subjected to major flooding in the past, particularly last year.