Cold snap to deepen weather misery as flood costs top €60m
Water levels have peaked across large parts of the country but another spell of heavy rain forecast from tomorrow could present further misery to thousands of families.
And colder temperatures are set to move in during this week, which will pose dangers to motorists as surface water freezes, and result in further damage to flooded properties.
The renewed weather warnings came as the Cabinet prepared to meet this morning to discuss a range of flood relief and prevention measures.
The cost of the recent storms to the State is now in the region of €60m, government sources revealed last night.
This includes €40m for repairs to roads and €8m already allocated to local authorities.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly will seek an additional €10m to pay for local authority staff costs and the clean up in the aftermath of Storms Desmond and Frank.
Elsewhere Local authorities and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) yesterday told Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe it will not be possible to get a definitive cost of damage done to transport infrastructure until the flood waters recede, which may take weeks.
Meawnhile the east coast is expected to see heavy rain from tonight, with 15mm to 20mm of rain due to fall on Dublin, Louth and Wicklow, which could exacerbate flooding near major rivers.
The downpours which crippled large parts of the country in recent weeks were the highest on record, Met Éireann has revealed, with three months' rain falling last month alone.
Forecaster Gerald Fleming of Met Éireann said the extreme conditions over the past month were likely to give way to more normal conditions this week, but 18 of the 23 weather stations had experienced their wettest December on record.
"In many of our stations, we got more rainfall in December than we would expect to get in the whole winter - we define winter as December, January and February," he said.
"We have already exceeded our winter rainfall just in that one month of exceptional conditions."
While the "abnormal rainfall" of recent weeks was moving away, even "normal" amounts could pose problems in flood-hit areas as rivers remain swollen and the ground saturated.
"The normal winter rainfall will continue to impact because of that, but we have seen the last of that (abnormal rainfall) for the moment at least."
The National Co-ordination Group (NCG) said drier conditions had spared much of the country from additional flooding, but plunging temperatures would present road safety risks, including the threat of black ice. The Road Safety Authority warned stranded cars, debris and wet roads still posed a threat to all road users. It urged motorists to follow diversions.
Some 1,736 members of the Defence Forces have been deployed since the severe weather took hold last month, working in Galway, Tipperary, Clare, Cork and Westmeath.
Some 600 homes have been affected, but chair of the NCG John Barry said there had been "some escalation" in those figures since the weekend.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) has warned water levels on the Shannon continue to rise in all areas, and had exceeded 2009 record levels. The smaller Shannon tributary, the Suck, has risen by 7cm while the Brosna has fallen by 9cm.
The Erne and Moy catchments are also on the rise.
Meanwhile, OPW Minister Simon Harris said he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny would meet with relevant agencies involved in maintaining the Shannon before this morning's Cabinet meeting. Some 66 built-up areas along the river have been identified as a flood risk.