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Friday 29 August 2014

It's no surprise – winter was our wettest on record

Greg Harkin and Caroline Crawford

Published 04/03/2014 | 02:30

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Clodagh Redden (Glandore) is pictured with her dog 'Bella' watching the huge waves as they batter Warren Strand Beach, West Cork
A pedestrian braves the wind and rain in Dublin's Temple Bar, yesterday afternoon. Picture Frank McGrath
A pedestrian braves the wind and rain in Dublin's Temple Bar, yesterday afternoon. Picture Frank McGrath

EXPERTS have confirmed what most people suspected – we've just had the wettest winter on record.

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And with insurance bills topping €130m for February alone, it could prove to be one of the most expensive.

More than half of Met Eireann's weather centres dotted around the country saw record rainfall over the past three months as winter storms caused havoc, the forecaster said.

And most of the damage was done during three weeks of hellish weather in February as a 'storm factory' in the Atlantic sent wave after wave of low pressure systems crashing into Ireland.

Heavy storms in the first days of February sent flood waters into businesses and homes in Cork, Limerick and Galway.

And the disasters were repeated just two weeks later as Storm Darwin swept in.

Rainfall records were smashed in Valentia where 848mm of rain over three months gave Kerry its wettest winter since records began there in 1866.

So much rain fell in Ballybunion that a landslide closed the road to its famous beach.

In Malin Head in north Donegal, there were more landslides and roads swept away. A new all-time record at the station there saw its wettest winter, with 530.7mm of rain, the most since records began 129 years ago.

ASTONISHING

Shannon and Mullingar also reported their wettest winters on record. Ballyhaise in Co Cavan saw the biggest rainfall in one day, an astonishing 34.5mm.

In parts of the West, the rain has continued, causing flooding misery for hundreds of families in many rural areas.

South Galway is experiencing some of its worst flooding since 2009. A number of homes and farms remain surrounded by flood water and are cut off from their local villages.

Vast tracts of farmland in the area remain flooded, with families forced to use constant pumps to stop the water from entering their homes.

A number of families can only reach their homes by boat or on a specially erected bridge.

But it wasn't just the rainfall setting new records – the country also saw its largest ever wave.

A 25-metre high wave was recorded off Kinsale's energy gas platform on February 12 as sea surges driven by a low pressure system wreaked havoc along our coasts.

The country was also hit by high winds – with hurricane-force gusts recorded.

The highest gust of the season was 86 knots (159 kph) at Shannon Airport on February 12, its highest for winter on record (68 years), while the highest mean speed was 65 knots (120kph) at Mace Head on the same day.

Dublin Airport's winter mean wind speed value of 14.4 knots (26 kph) was its highest since 1943, while Shannon Airport reported its highest winter mean wind speed in 31 years, with 12.3 knots (23 kph). Some stations in the South had their highest mean wind speeds in 24 years.

"The distinguishing factor was the frequency of the Atlantic storms," said Met Eireann climatologist Aidan Murphy.

"The 159kph wind gust at Shannon was the highest recorded, but it wasn't exceptional in that we had similar conditions and worse during Hurricane Debbie in 1961, and similar conditions during both the 'Night of the Big Winds' in January 1839 and more recently in 1997 and 1998.

"The frequency of this year's storms was unusual – but again not exceptional because we also experienced similar Atlantic storm conditions in February 1990," he said.

Last night FBD, one of the country's biggest insurance companies, said the cost of the February storms alone in private claims would probably come in at close to €130m.

County councils across Ireland estimate the cost of repairing damage at more than €200m, while the Government was forced to set up a €15m emergency humanitarian fund to help families whose homes were not insured.

Dublin was the sunniest place to be over the winter, with the capital grabbing two records – with 270 hours of sunshine and the highest daily sunshine total of 8.8 hours on February 27.

Knock airport was the country's dullest place with 48 days with less than 30 minutes daily sunshine.

Irish Independent

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