'I could have just let the wind blow me to my destination'
Published 13/02/2014 | 02:30
IT WAS an epic journey that started at 11am and ended at 7pm, and I still hadn't reached my final destination. But at least I was in one piece.
Driving on the main Tralee to Dingle route, it felt like I should just turn off the engine and let the wind blow me all the way to Clare.
What was I doing out on the road anyway in weather like this?
A little further on and the sight of an overturned articulated lorry at Gleann na nGealt made me wonder the same thing.
Terrifyingly, this was just the first of three stricken trucks I encountered on my journey in a stark reminder of the sheer force of nature.
At the Gala filling station in Blennerville I pulled in, too afraid to go any farther, as my car swayed with the storm.
The road before the bridge was flooded but worse destruction lay ahead in Tralee, which had shut down while it weathered the onslaught.
Part of the roof was blown clean off the Brandon Hotel, landing in the middle of Prince's Street and on top of cars parked across the road.
In the surrounding town park, trees that had stood their ground for hundreds of years lay uprooted and strewn across the rose garden.
At Mile Height on the outskirts of the town the front windows were blown off the showroom of the Hyundai dealership, writing off 12 new cars before they had even left Adams's forecourt.
But the garage owner Des was only thankful no one had been killed or seriously injured by the glass shards that blasted and cut everything in their path.
The roof of the prefab classrooms was lifted off Listellick National School near Abbeydorney outside the town, terrifying the children within.
Again, mercifully, no one was injured.
After 3pm the ferocity of the so-called Storm Darwin had abated from the south-west so I continued on my journey, but the destruction left in its path hadn't.
Reaching Clare by ferry was out of the question, as all crossings had been cancelled, so the only option was by road.
Trees were pulled by their roots, protruding dangerously on the carriageway or across ESB lines.
The expected tailbacks at Adare, Co Limerick, stretched to near the beginning of the M20 motorway.
But the event that I had been on my way to was cancelled. The Trump brothers had been due at Doonbeg that evening, but Shannon Airport doesn't reopen even for private planes.
I broke my journey in Ballyneety in Co Limerick. Limerick to Clare was unreachable.
The road exiting the Condell Bridge over an angry Shannon was also closed because of fallen trees and debris on the route.
I landed to a dark but warm welcome in Co Limerick, while the Clare commuters still battled with the weather to reach home.