independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Met Eireann upgrades warning status to orange with gale force winds expected

Cars swept off Galway pier as Atlantic gales gather for round two

Waves wash over Ventry pier in Kerry yesterday. Photo: Emer Fitzgerald

Strong south to southeast winds, with gusts of 80 or 90km/h at first, will veer southwest this afternoon according to Met Eireann as it upgraded its warning from code yellow.

Winds are expected to strengthen again tonight with gale force south to southwest winds developing, giving gusts of 100 to 120km/h, highest in the exposed coastal areas.

The danger of coastal flooding also continues, due to the combination of the gale force winds, high tides and very high seas. Heavy thundery downpours may lead to local spot flooding inland also.

Surf reports and enthusiasts from around the country have been warning of massive swells moving with the storm and estimating waves in some areas could reach anywhere from 35ft to as high as 65ft.
 

Irish Ferries has cancelled all of its swift sailings on the Irish sea.

The stormy conditions will worsen tonight and last at least until Tuesday with bands of heavy rain moving in from the Atlantic.

There is a risk of falling trees, with many already weakened by storms which have already caused damage estimated at €200m.

And fears are mounting that insurance premiums could soar by up to 15 per cent, given the scale of damage.

Worst hit was Cork, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Mayo where the storm damage from Thursday alone is estimated at more than €25m.

In Cleggan, Co Galway, six cars were swept off the pier where the Inishbofin ferry docks. Noreen Higgins of the nearby Oliver's Bar said one car could be seen on the sea bed but the others were swept further away. On Inishbofin itself there were reports of a lighthouse on Gun Rock being carried away by the seas.

Lahinch, on the Co Clare coast, needs a cash injection of €5m after its promenade was destroyed by an Atlantic storm surge; while the town's Seaworld tourist attraction suffered €100,000 worth of damage.

"We are looking for emergency funding from the Government, as the local authority has no funding to repair the damage in Lahinch," local councillor Bill Slattery told the Sunday Independent.

"I have never seen the devastation like it," he added.

"A playground we had just opened two years ago was completely destroyed and the walkway surfaces along the seafront have been ripped up. Huge boulders were being thrown across the car park with the force of the tide."

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, all requests for additional funding from local authorities struggling with storm and flood damages will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

"We'll need to wait and see what comes out in the wash and how bad things are, we'll consider everything and then decide how best to deal with the damages," said the spokesperson.

Galway business owners are counting the cost of one of the worst floods to hit the West. They say the damage could run to hundreds of thousands of euro.

A number of shops and restaurants were forced to remain closed this weekend as they carried out repair works following the floods.

For several businesses in Galway this is the second time in the past year they have suffered extensive flood damage.

Last January, torrential rain led to flash floods in the Spanish Arch area of the city, causing thousands of euro worth of damage.

This latest flood has dealt a serious blow to many businesses already struggling to cope, with one popular restaurant admitting it may not survive if it suffers further flood damage.

Ram Kumar worked throughout Friday night in order to get his restaurant reopen for last night. The restaurant had suffered up to €10,000 damage, losing all fridges, electrical items and linen; the front window was also smashed and electrics suffered serious damage.

"We couldn't afford to stay closed. We can't just stop, my whole family is working here and we have rent and staff we must pay. I don't know how we will manage if another flood comes. This is the second time in a year we have had to replace everything. We have no insurance to help.

"If there are more floods coming we will try and prepare for it but we must leave it with God," he added.

Niall McNeilis, whose Spanish Arch jewellery shop suffered around €10,000 worth of damage to his premises, will be holding a sale during the usually quiet January period to help raise funds for much-needed repairs.

The clean-up costs being faced by local councils are also substantial.

A state-of-the-art heating and power system installed at Leisureland in Galway was damaged by the floods and the centre will remain closed until tomorrow at the earliest.

While the flooding experienced on Thursday night and Friday morning has since abated, businesses and home owners are bracing themselves for the new storm front set to hit the country from tonight.

Galway City and Mayo County Councils warned business owners and motorists of the dangers of high winds and the possibility of flying debris.

In Co Mayo the river Moy burst its banks in Ballina, while in Westport, part of a bridge collapsed but injuries were avoided. Council workers were still out yesterday, carrying out remedial works and clearing debris along the coast. But there was a feeling that they may have to come back again as another powerful gale gathers strength in the Atlantic.

Cork remains on high flood alert of a possible storm surge over the next 36 hours, with the last of a series of high tides forecast for tonight.

However, despite flooding along Cork's city quays on Friday and yesterday, the scale of the floods never approached that of Thursday night when parts of the city centre were left impassable.

As well as resignation and upset among the people of Cork over the latest floods, there is also anger.

Traders and politicians have challenged the Government over why flood defences have not been improved in Cork city -- Ireland's most flood-prone urban centre -- despite more than €100m worth of damage being caused by a devastating deluge four years ago.

In November 2009, parts of the city centre were cut-off when the River Lee broke its banks and a quay wall collapsed amid a nightmare combination of high tides, torrential rainfall, adverse winds and an emergency release of water from an ESB hydroelectric dam.

Cork Chamber of Commerce, Cork Business Association and former lord mayor John Buttimer (FG) warned that urgent action needs to be taken by the Office of Public Works on the Lee flood defence study.

Under current plans Cork won't get new flood defences until 2017 -- despite the fact the city has already suffered four major floods since 2009.

Chamber president Gillian Keating said it was deeply frustrating that despite successive floods little has been done to tackle the issue and resolve concerns ranging from property damage to refusal of flood insurance.

"It has been four years since the severe 2009 floods and we are now facing into a further four year project timeline before Cork city is protected fully from potential future flooding," she said.

She warned that Cork cannot afford delays over project design and funding issues.

"There have been several serious flooding events in the Cork region in recent years, none of which have been satisfactorily addressed.

"Given the significant increase in localised flooding events, it is essential that the causes are investigated without delay and the necessary investments are made, accompanied by the implementation of planned warning systems."

Cork Business Association president Donal Healy said traders hit by floods find it impossible to renew flood insurance.

"An early warning system is fine and good -- but there is only so much that traders can do to protect their shops.

"We need better protection," he said.

Cork TD Billy Kelleher (FF) said it was "absolutely unbelievable" that little or nothing has been done to protect Ireland's lowest lying and most flood-vulnerable urban centre.

Despite restoring service to 2,000 customers by Friday night, Eircom was still working to repair over 12,000 faults on the network yesterday, due to 2,800 new reports of faults over the previous night.

As well as Galway and Cork, there was also flooding in parts of Dublin, Waterford, Tralee in Kerry and parts of Clare and Mayo.

The river Shannon burst its banks in Limerick and some roads in Dublin were closed around Heuston Station and the Guinness Storehouse when the river Liffey burst its banks on Friday.

The Eastlink toll bridge in Dublin was also closed due to the floods and the main streets in Baldoyle and Portmarnock were impassable for a time.

A bridge near Rosmoney in Mayo was washed away and the docks in Galway were also flooded.

In Kerry, a woman had a lucky escape when the car she was driving was washed into the sea at Ballylongford in Co Kerry, after she took a wrong turn down a lane leading towards the sea.

Irish Independent

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