independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Gale force winds of up to 90kmh and heavy downpours to continue throughout today

Emergency services cut motorist from car after tree falls on it - rainfall warning to remain in place today

GALE force winds and heavy downpours will continue throughout today, Met Eireann have warned.

As commuters make their way to work and schools this morning, the risk of localised flooding remains with heavy thundery showers expected throughout the morning into noon.

Strong gale force winds will hit Ulster, Connacht and Leinster, where gusts of up to 90km/h an hour can be expected in some of these areas.

Munster will be hit later today.

Strong gusty to gale force easterly winds will hit the eastern coast today.

There will be strong westerly winds over Munster later on this afternoon, with mean speeds of 40 to 65km/h.

A rainfall warning for East Munster and for most of Leinster remains in force.

“Heavy showers will be showing up anywhere,” Met Eireann’s Evelyn Cusack told independent.ie this morning.

Gardai in the midlands reported localised flooding in many areas after heavy winds and rainfall hit the area last night.

Meanwhile a motorist had a lucky escape after his car was hit by a tree in Garristown, between Blake’s Cross and Ballygall in North County Dublin. Emergency services were called and cut the man from his car.

Local authorities throughout the country will assess storm damage this morning.

Meanwhile, some 300 hundred cities, towns and villages are at "significant" risk of flooding – but work to make them safe will take years, the Irish Independent has learned.

STORM
CREDIT:  Michael Shine / ?@michael_shine

Meanwhile in a shoe shop in cork city tonight.
STORM CREDIT: Michael Shine / ?@michael_shine Meanwhile in a shoe shop in cork city tonight.

The extent of the flood defence work required means that current and future governments will have to make tough choices when deciding where money should be spent.

Rising sea levels and more extreme winter storms, coupled with pressure on Exchequer funding, will leave the authorities with no choice but to accept that some areas cannot be economically protected, climate-change expert Professor John Sweeney from NUI Maynooth warned.

Office of Public Works Minister Brian Hayes admitted as much when he said it would take billions of euro to do all the work required.

A detailed list of vulnerable areas commissioned by the OPW shows that communities ranging from small villages to large urban centres are at risk unless defence works are carried out.

The report names towns across all 26 counties, ranging from Wexford, Bray in Wicklow, Callan in Kilkenny and Birr in Offaly to Glenties in Donegal, Passage West in Cork, Nenagh in Tipperary and Oughterard in Galway.

Mr Hayes admitted that even if the "billions" of euro needed to complete the flood defence works were available, it would take "years" to complete the projects.

Details emerged following the devastation in recent days in Cork and Limerick and as communities across the country brace themselves for further bad weather.

Met Eireann is warning of continued heavy rain, coastal flooding and gusts of up to 115kmh in some parts.

In all, some 300 areas have been identified as ar risk of flooding by the OPW. Of these, 121 are listed in Leinster, 24 of which are in and around Dublin.

Another 34 are in Ulster, the bulk of which are in Donegal (28), while 101 are in Munster (33 in Cork) and 44 in Connacht, where Galway has 15.

Also included in the list of areas for "further assessment" are Shannon International Airport and power stations in Kerry and Offaly.

The owners of Tarbert power station in Co Kerry said there had been no record of any flood since the plant opened in 1968.

A planning application to upgrade the station included a flood-risk assessment and all works required would be carried out, a spokesman said.

The list is contained in the National Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment overview report, and the areas will be the subject of in-depth investigation over the coming years before a detailed list of flood defences needed across the country is produced in 2015.

Mr Hayes said that although schemes were under way in some areas, all the projects would not be identified until the national Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) studies were completed.

Just €250m has been set aside until 2016 to complete flood defence works and it could take up to four years to deliver individual schemes, he warned, adding that areas most at risk would have to be prioritised.

"When the CFRAM process is complete, we can actually talk about what's needed," he told the Irish Independent.

"This will ultimately be in the billions if we were to do everything tomorrow. Were you to have all the money tomorrow, would you have the capacity needed to do it? Could we ramp up expenditure on flood defences above the €250m? That's a question for Government.

"We have to prioritise the areas most at risk, with the most housing, the greatest risk of premises and farmland being affected, and fatalities. How are we going to use this resource in the most cost-effective way? That's a debate we have to have nationally."

PROTECTING

Some flood defence works in Dublin and towns, including Clonmel, Mallow and Fermoy, have been completed in recent years, with six more due to begin in 2014, including in Templemore, Claregalway, Bandon and Bray.

Some €370m has been spent since 1995 on flood-risk management, with these projects protecting some 10,500 properties and avoiding damages and losses of up to €1bn.

However, almost €700m has been paid out by insurance companies since 2000 during eight major flooding events.

The cost of the storms that ravaged the country over Christmas is expected to run into the millions of euro.

Prof Sweeney from NUI Maynooth said flooding was likely to worsen as a result of global warming.

More rainfall and extreme storms, coupled with rising sea levels, would cause devastation to communities.

A study by the NUI department of geography a decade ago warned that up to 175,000 hectares of land was vulnerable to sea level rise, he added.

More than 33,000 addresses in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway were less than three metres above sea level, and flood defences built in the 19th and 20th Century might no longer be fit for purpose.

The Government might have to accept that some areas cannot economically be protected from rising sea levels.

RETREAT

"We'll have to retreat and lose some land, land which can't be economically defended," Prof Sweeney said.

The OPW assessments were based on a review of records of past flood events, analysed areas that might flood in the future, and were carried out in consultation with local authorities and government departments and agencies.

A total of seven catchment assessments are under way and due for completion in 2015.

The list of at-risk areas was devised following consideration of all types of flooding, including river, coastal, heavy rain and groundwater, and taking into account the impact it would have on people, property, businesses, the environment and cultural heritage, including national monuments.

The studies will also produce Flood Risk Management Plans in 2015 that will set out a long-term strategy, and define and prioritise measures to reduce and manage the flood risk.

Failure of infrastructure such as reservoirs, water supply systems, canals and storm-water drainage systems were also taken into account.

Paul Melia

Irish Independent

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