No let-up in March as rain and high winds to batter country
MARCH looks set to come in like a lion, with more rain and high wind on the way after some parts of the country recorded double the usual rainfall levels in recent weeks.
The monsoon-like rainfall has left homeowners in low-lying areas counting the cost of flooding, caused disruption to rail services and left fishermen ruefully examining their losses.
Floodwaters along the Shannon have continued to be kept at bay by pumps, as householders keep watch for potential flooding in midland areas.
Met Eireann's Pat Clarke warned that more wind and rain is expected to sweep in from the Atlantic later today, with temperatures dipping from tomorrow onwards.
"We've had wind gusts in the south and west coast of 110km an hour," the forecaster said as a 'yellow' gale warning remained in place yesterday along the coastline. Some areas bore the worst of the gale-force winds, with the south coast swept by strong gusts.
"There will be a cold changeable weather regime," he said. "The rain has been well above normal throughout the winter – everyone knows it has been very wet from the middle of December onwards."
Drivers were urged to beware of spot flooding with 220.3mm of rainfall recorded at Cork Airport so far this February – double the average rainfall of 97.8mm recorded for the period.
And it was a similar picture in other parts of the country. In Oak Park in Carlow 154.7mm of rain fell, compared with an average level of 57.3mm.
The high winds in recent weeks have also caused huge problems, leaving fishermen shore-bound, with fleets counting up heavy losses. Kathleen Hayes, from the Irish Fishermen's Organisation, warned that fishermen were "really seriously in difficulty".
Some of the larger whitefish vessels, measuring over 20 metres, have only been out to sea six days since the start of the year while some smaller boats have found it even harder to sail.
"It is the longest spell. It has come at the time of year when it is one of the most expensive times for family," she said, urging the Government to deliver hardship funds for the industry.
And commuters will continue to feel the impact as Iarnrod Eireann confirmed metre-high floodwaters over the rail line at Ballycar near Newmarket-on-Fergus mean the Limerick to Ennis rail line will not be in use until late March at least.
Residents of the storm-hit Aran Islands are praying for an end to the bad weather to allow hundreds of revellers to make their way to Tedfest tomorrow.
The annual 'Father Ted' carnival on Inishmore will give a much-needed €150,000 boost to the local economy, attracting around 500 fans. It runs from February 27 to March 2.
Organiser Peter Phillips said: "The weather's been absolutely terrible here."
Meanwhile, the cost of the storm damage is set to spiral as it emerged €70m pledged by the Government will only cover a three-week period of devastation up to the start of January.
A report by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management shows that the total damage caused in the period from December 13 to January 6 was estimated at €61.5m by county and city councils. Additional damage to transport infrastructure of €6.95m, including €5.4m on rail services, and a €12m bill for repairing Office of Public Works facilities, brings the total damage to €69.65m, according to the latest figures.
Louise Hogan and Sam Griffin