independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

'It's amazing nobody was killed' is refrain that's echoed everywhere

Liam and Annette Donegan with their cows who where lucky to escape a falling tree. Mark Condren

THE sound of the wind was so loud that it had drowned out the immense noise of century-old trees being pulled up by their gigantic roots and snapped like kindle.

It was only when the storm was over and it was safe once again to venture outdoors that the true extent of the damage was realised.

From first light, work was under way all across the storm-damaged regions; chainsaws breaking the post-storm calm as the process of rectifying the chaos of the previous day began.

Roads had to be re-opened – with main thoroughfares given first priority, working down through the grades finally to the back roads; structures were assessed and fences mended.

DESTRUCTION

But even the busiest worker in a hard hat took the time to marvel that amid all this destruction no lives had been lost, with all echoing the same refrain: "It's amazing nobody was killed."

All across Co Kilkenny are clear signs that winds of hurricane level had crossed the land, with precariously angled telegraph poles, splintered trees and toppled gateposts a common sight.

Walls have crumbled, fences buckled and large branches were strewn across the roadsides.

In Richmond in Troyswood, just a couple of miles outside Kilkenny city, farmers Liam and Annette Donegan had risen at 6.30am knowing there was work to be done.

The previous day, the couple had been sitting in their cosy kitchen, a coal fire glowing in the stove, when the storm blew up at about 1.50pm.

"It came from nowhere," said Annette. "It was so windy that the rain couldn't even come down straight – It was coming down zig-zag.

"It was frightening. You couldn't go out that back door – but all during the storm there were cars going up and down the road. I couldn't understand how they could drive at all in those conditions."

The noise of the wind had been terrifying, drowning out the inevitably immense crash of the 100-year-old fir tree that had snapped and hurtled through the roof of the shed where two valuable Hereford cows in calf had been sheltering.

A 40-year-old cypress tree – its roots easily 15 feet across – was ripped from the ground, pulling curb stones and tarmac with it.

The couple were unaware of any of this destruction until the winds finally died down at 4.30pm and they were able to venture outside once more.

"When we saw it all, we couldn't believe it," said Liam.

The couple had rushed to the shed, thinking their two pure-bred cows were dead. Miraculously, they had escaped without a scratch.

"We think they heard the sound of the trees cracking and knew to go over to the gate where it was safer," believes Annette, affectionately greeting "the mommas" and offering them a handful of silage.

"We've been farming here for generations – but I've never heard of anything like we had in Kilkenny that day," said Liam.

He explained that 12 acres of his agricultural land at the Noir basin is currently under water and that this is an almost annual occurrence.

"But we run a good place here and we will get it back in good shape," he vowed.

A little way down the road, at the Aut Even private hospital, workers were clearing the lands after "25 to 30 trees" had blown down on the avenue.

"Roots and everything came out and they broke a main water pipe," explained maintenance worker John Connolly.

"But we were lucky – the gas mains was close by and that wasn't damaged."

The remaining trees on the avenue will now be taken down just in case, he revealed. "Some of them are in a shaky state and it's better to be safe."

He and hospital plumber Michael Hoban joked that everyone that passes by is inquiring about firewood.

At Bishopslough in Bennetsbridge, we happen upon the sobering sight of a lifeless ram, electrocuted by a fallen cable.

A garda sign is a warning not to venture near the fallen wires which electricity workers have as yet been unable to attend to.

"Poor divil," said a local farmer on a tractor of the ram. "He was eating ivy off the tree when he was killed."

Philosophically, he added: "Better a ram than any of us."

Irish Independent

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