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Saturday 30 August 2014

Downpours and gale force winds batter the country

  • Status Orange weather warning is in place nationwide
    • Heavy thundery downpours leading to spot flooding
    • Waves recorded today of nearly 12 metres
    • Gale force winds will be the most severe in Munster and South Leinster
    • Galway: the Salthill Promenade and Grattan roads are closed. The Corrib has burst its banks near Spanish Arch
    • Dublin: a fallen tree is blocking traffic in Crumlin
    • Cork: River Lee has broken her banks. Morrison's Island, Union Quay, Wandesford Quay are now all impassable.
    • Limerick: Flooding has struck St Mary's Park, Foynes and Askeaton
    • Crosswinds are causing problems on the M7 and M11

Published 06/01/2014 | 02:30

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East Link bridge which was taking on water this afternoon
Dundalk pier
A cyclist braves the weather conditions on the coast road at Sandymount, yesterday.
Photo: Tony Gavin 4/1/2014
A cyclist braves the weather conditions on the coast road at Sandymount. Photo: Tony Gavin

Some 5,000 homes around the country are without power this morning as gale force winds from storm Christine batter the country.

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Some 2,500 ESB customers are without power in the northwest of the country, while 1,500 are without power in the southwest. A number of homes are also out in Enniscorthy.

An ESB spokesperson told independent.ie that crews have been working all night and this morning, and it is hoped that power will be restored by tea time today.

A status orange weather warning is in place nationwide - with a combination of gale force winds, high tides and very high seas hitting the country.

Met Eireann has extended the wind warning until this evening for throughout the country. The East Link bridge in Dublin was taking on water this afternoon but gardai said that it was still passable and there were no delays being reported reported this evening.

The Marine Institute recorded waves today of nearly 12metres on its M6 buoy on the Porcupine Bank off the north-west of Ireland.

Waves of the same height were also recorded at its Waverider buoy off Belmullet, Co Mayo.

Heavy and thundery rain and hail are lashing the country and spot flooding has occurred nationwide this morning.

Met Eireann has warned that heavy thundery showers are now widespread across the country.

High seas are expected to be in excess of ten metres on the south and west coasts. Gale force winds will be the most severe in Munster and South Leinster.

The main flooding risks are near the coasts in the west and south west, and in low lying areas like the Shannon estuary and in Cork and Kerry inland.

Galway City Council warned of a risk of flooding at the Spanish Arch, Fishmarket and Docks area around high tide at 8.32am.

The Grattan road has been closed this morning but it is due to reopen at a later stage. The Salthill Promenade at Seapoint is closed due to high winds and spray. People are being advised to take the Kingston road if they're driving through Salthill.

Water is pouring into the car park and adjacent green area off Seapoint roundabout, reports suggest.

The Corrib river has broken its banks near the Spanish Arch in Galway but there has been no major flooding so far, according to reports.

While the high tide mark came and went without significant flooding in Galway, homes and businesses remained on high alert.

In Dublin, there is excess surface water on the M50 northbound in the far left hand lane before J7 Lucan.

A fallen tree partially blocked the Clonard road this morning at the Old County Junction road in Crumlin, but it has now been cleared away.

In Limerick, rivers are very high and areas like St Mary's Park experienced flooding. Foynes and Askeaton were the worst - eight homes in Askeaton were damaged.

Limerick County Council have been sandbagging as many areas as possible to prevent damage by floods.

In Lahinch, storm damage from Friday will cost millions. People are being asked to stay away from Lahinch seafront. Some 15 premises have been shuttered to protect them as Christine rages on the Atlantic sea.

In Cork city, the River Lee burst her banks this morning. Morrison's Island, Union Quay, Wandesford Quay were impassable, but the floodwater is receding.

On the M6, the Dublin to Galway motorway, spot flooding is also causing problems for commuters.

Fallen trees caused problems both in Sligo and Cork this morning.

Cross winds are slowing traffic on the M7, the Dublin to Limerick motorway, and on the M11 around Bray.

Torrential rainfall and winds gusting to 120kph caused misery across the south.

On Inishbofin island in Connemara, high tide at 8am and crashing waves caused destruction to the road network. Several sections of buttressing were ripped up, leaving no protection between the island's roads and cliffs.

A number of cars have been destroyed on the island by the raging Atlantic and gale-force winds.

In Galway ESB crews worked to restore power to hundreds of homes in the Recess, Kylemore and Spiddal areas.

A number of ferries sailings were also cancelled due to the strong winds of up to 120kmph.

The Coastguard has advised the public to stay away from exposed coasts, cliffs piers, harbour walls or beaches.

Meanwhile Junior Minister Brian Hayes has confirmed that Galway's application for flood relief funding from the Office of Public Works (OPW) will be fast-tracked.

Galway West TD Sean Kyne said he had been assured by Minister Hayes that the funds would be made available in an timely fashion for flood relief.

“I believe that extra emergency funding will be required to repair and replace local infrastructure and will be pressing for that within Government. I would like to commend the local Council staff and members of local Communities for their works over the last number of days in clearing debris and making roads passable where possible,” added Mr Kyne.

Nationwide, motorists have been advised that driving conditions will be hazardous, with the threat of strong crosswinds, fallen trees and electrical wires.

While daredevil surfers flocked to Mullaghmore Head in Co Sligo, where waves as high as 11.8metres were recorded, seafront towns in the south and west of the country were a washout.

Snarling waves off Co Clare caused localised flooding in the coastal town Doolin.

Coastguard stores at the town's harbour were completely washed out, while seafront houses at nearby Lahinch were ravaged by huge swells.

High tides battered the coasts of Galway, Cork and Waterford, but despite a landslide at Plunkett Train Station in the latter last week, normal service resumed today.

Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork kept its gates closed.

Meanwhile, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) warned continued high Atlantic waves, heavy showers and continued thunderstorms would cause treacherous conditions for drivers.

It advised motorists to take extra care on the roads, where aquaplaning could cause them to lose control of their vehicle.

It also warned it takes longer to stop on a wet road and that fierce cross winds could leave drivers particularly vulnerable.

The RSA also urged drivers to steer clear of flooded roads, warning those that appear shallow could be much deeper.

"Sometimes roads can be closed due to their fragile state after wet weather or because they are blocked by flooding," it said in a statement.

"Road users should always follow recommended routes and obey signs closing roads to traffic. Watch out for washed out roads, earth slides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires, and fallen or falling objects."

Last night, lightning caused power outages across parts of Cork while winds brought down trees and the rainfall combined with a storm surge left dozens of coastal areas and Cork city on high flood alert.

The worst power outages occurred in the Bandon area where lighting strikes left hundreds of homes in darkness overnight.

Lightning strikes were also reported in Mitchelstown and Youghal.

Flooding also hit Bantry with the combination of high tides, a storm surge and torrential rainfall flooding parts of the quays and square.

Midleton was also hit with the Bailick-Ballinacurra Road again closed after drains were swamped by the downpour.

The winds brought down trees in the Youghal, Lisgoold, Fermoy and Bantry areas with motorists urged to drive with extreme caution.

Cork city centre residents and traders were placed on flood alert for the seventh successive day.

The problem was exacerbated by torrential overnight rainfall which left large quantities of surface water combined with partially filled drains and culverts.

High tide was at 9am and flooding again hit low-lying quays including Union Quay, Morrisson’s Quay and Sharman-Crawford Street as the River Lee broke its banks.

City council staff and Gardai attended the floods and the routes involved were closed to traffic.

However, the flooding was not as severe or as extensive as last Thursday night when parts of the city centre were left impassable.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) pleaded with motorists to drive with care and to allow extra time for journeys given the freak weather conditions.

Irish Ferries warned that all Swift sailings to Wales have been suspected given the stormy seas.

In Kerry, thousands of euro worth of damage has been caused to the headquarters of a sea and cliff rescue service in the storms.

Volunteers at Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue are assessing the damage caused to their centre on the Ladies’ Beach by the high tide and massive swell this morning.

The boat house at the centre has been evacuated as a precaution.

A spokesperson said: “It is too early to estimate the cost of the damage but it looks to be in the regions of thousands.”

The Ballybunion crew had been working hard over the past week coming to the rescue of people caught in the storm.

Volunteers came to the rescue of a Limerick woman on Thursday whose car became submerged in the sea when she lost her way and took a wrong turn.

Meanwhile, the canal in Tralee has burst its banks and council workers are on hand with sandbags and pumps to try to limit the damage to nearby houses.

There was also flooding in the Cromane area of south Kerry.

Approximately 1,200 homes have been left without power following last night’s high winds and lightening storms.

It is expected that power will be restored in the coming hours.

Today marks 175th the anniversary of the worst storm Ireland had in 500 years. This storm was dubbed "the night of the big wind" in 1839, climatologist John Sweeney told RTE's Morning Ireland today.

The massive hurricane, caused severe damage to property and several hundred deaths. Some 20 to 25 per cent of houses in north Dublin were damaged or destroyed, and 42 ships were wrecked.

Householders and business owners will have to batten down the hatches over the coming days as the brutal Atlantic storm hammering the country is not expected to settle down until Wednesday.

After days spent cleaning up the destruction caused by last week's storms, with estimates of the repair bill hitting €225m, the country is set to face further weather misery including high winds and a risk of flooding into tomorrow.

A renewed Met Eireann 'orange alert', issued last night for vast swathes of the south and west, and will remain in force until midday with winds gusting up to 120kmh in Wexford, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.

The rest of the country also faces high winds, with a 'status yellow' warning in effect.

As the cost of the worst storms in 15 years continues to mount, the Government has said it is looking at the need for an emergency capital fund to pay for repairs to public roads, car parks and facilities which have been destroyed by the severe weather conditions.

Met Eireann forecaster Pat Clarke told the Irish Independent that the stormy weather will last into tomorrow, adding: "The south and south-west coast will bear the brunt of these conditions with a very high risk of coastal flooding, but also some spot flooding inland".

He said: "We have had worse storms in the past in terms of wind, but this time we had high tides as well so the critical factor here has been the combination of all of these weather events; high winds, heavy rain and high seas all together," he said.

He blamed "a huge storm" currently in the middle of the Atlantic, which he said "is feeding the high winds, high seas and heavy rain over Ireland.

"At the moment, it doesn't look like the storm centre will be coming in over Ireland, but it will continue to throw this poor weather in our direction."

He said it will be Wednesday before the country returns to "normal winter weather".

Responding to calls to act in relation to the millions of euro of damage sustained during the storm, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said the Government was examining the need for an emergency capital fund to be established.

"He does appreciate the gravity of the situation," said Labour TD Michael McNamara.

"The scale of the damage is far beyond what any council could be expected to meet from its budget," Mr. McNamara told the Irish Independent.

However, if Mr Howlin decides to provide money for an emergency repair budget, it would apply only to public facilities, with householders having to claim from insurance companies for damage sustained to their homes.

The Irish Coast Guard last night strongly advised the public to continue to avoid exposed coasts, cliffs, or any other coastal areas during the storms.

Coast Guard manager Declan Geoghegan warned: "Huge waves can be whipped up by high seas. These waves can pose hazards to anyone close to the shoreline."

The most westerly landmark in the country, the lighthouse on Inishbofin island off the Galway coast, was put out of action by gale force winds -- the first time it has sustained such severe damage -- after the light disappeared into the sea at the height of the storm.

Islander Patricia Coyne said the storms of the last week had been the worst in living memory. "The damage to the lighthouse was the worst of all. There is no light now and I suppose you could say no lighthouse either. It's gone completely and we've never seen anything like it."

Efforts were continuing to repair the lighthouse so that it can continue to provide vital navigation information for marine traffic.

Elsewhere in Galway, human remains in cemeteries along the coast were disturbed by the pounding seas and gale-force winds.

At Muirios graveyard in Baile na hAbhann in Connemara coffins were exposed by the high seas, which crashed on to the burial ground.

"It is distressing for everyone to see such damage.

"A huge wall which was protecting the graveyard has been knocked and the sea just spilled in and did all the damage", said local senator Trevor O Clochartaigh.

Last night, there were concerns that the graveyard at Barr an Doire in Carraroe would suffer a similar fate after a severe pounding in recent days.

Local man Tom Keaney (23) is expected to be laid to rest there as soon as his remains are returned home from Perth in Australia where he passed away on December 30.

Mr Keaney died in hospital from severe head injuries he sustained in a late-night assault in the Bridgetown area of Perth.

"It will probably be another 10 days or so before his parents will be able to bring Tommy home.

"The road to the graveyard has been damaged, but we'll get it sorted out in good time to make sure everything is as it should be", said local businessman Brendan Keogh.

In the Midlands, Athlone Town Council activated its flood emergency response plan last night as water levels continue to rise on the River Shannon.

Irish Ferries have cancelled all of their swift sailings on the Irish Sea today.

 

Geraldine Gittens, Ralph Riegel and Caroline Crawford

Irish Independent

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