THE most prolonged and destructive storm to hit this country in more than 20 years is set to ease today -- leaving a trail of devastation and a clean-up bill of an estimated €300m in its wake.
Superstorm Christine has lashed almost all of the country, wiping out many coastal defences, washing away roads and destroying buildings.
Coastal communities are counting the cost in the aftermath of the savage weather. Many have been left isolated by extensive floods and without power.
As severe winds reached 120kph in some areas, about 5,000 houses lost electricity and 11,000 faults were reported to Eircom.
Met Eireann said it was the most prolonged storm since the 1990s as county councils across the country spent the day calculating how much essential clean-up operations will cost.
The astonishing damage included a large sinkhole which appeared on a street in Tramore, Co Waterford, caused by the savage waves battering the coast.
Four truckloads of concrete were poured into the hole in a bid to stabilise it, and more will be poured in today amid concern about the foundations of nearby apartment buildings.
Other worrying developments during the extreme conditions included:
* Two young men injured after being swept off their feet by strong winds in separate incidents in Cork and Dublin -- leaving one with a broken leg while the other narrowly avoided being swept out to sea.
* A rural community in Clare completely cut off, leaving four families stranded.
* A lighthouse on Inisboffin Island washed away by storm surges.
* In Lahinch, further sections of the promenade wall were smashed and sent flying across the flooded car park.
* Roads left impassable and in some cases swept away entirely, particularly in the west.
* ESB crews battling the strong winds to restore power, with Galway, Mayo, Clare, Kerry, Cork and Wexford the worst-affected counties.
While the worst of the weather has now passed, the clean-up operation is only just beginning. The cost of repairing storm damage is expected to be as high as €300m, with tens of millions expected in insurance claims while thousands more families will find their homes uninsurable.
Local authorities across the country are also desperately trying to find the funds for the essential clean-up operations, with councils in the west pledging to rebuild.
Clare County Council said it couldn't guarantee that repairs in Lahinch would be completed before the summer tourist season.
Such a freak prolonged storm period has not been seen since the early 1990s, according to meteorologists. John Eagleton said that while the storm was not among the worst ever to lash the country, it was unusual due to the length of time it lasted.
"We've had these stormy conditions since the middle of December, going on four weeks now. The wind has been relentless, but it's over now.
"We expect it to ease down today back to normal winds and less rain for the next week. We won't be seeing another yellow warning in the near future," he predicted.
The Marine Institute recorded roaring waves of nearly 12m (39ft) on its M6 buoy on the Porcupine Bank off the north-west of Ireland. Waves of the same height were also recorded at its Waverider buoy off Belmullet, Co Mayo.
At least two people were injured as a result of the strong winds. One man was taken by lifeboat from Sherkin Island in west Cork after breaking his leg during high winds.
A second man injured his ankle when he was swept from the upper pier in Howth, Co Dublin. He narrowly escaped a more serious injury after falling 10ft to the lower pier.
Some of the worst flooding was experienced in Co Clare. Four families living at the tip of Loop Head were left stranded after part of the road to the peninsula was washed away.
Homeowners in Quilty, Liscannor and Carrigaholt were also badly affected by floodwaters which caused damage beyond repair in some cases.
A number of roads in Galway, Mayo and Clare remain impassable and in some cases have been completely torn up.
Islands off the coast also took a fresh battering. On Inisboffin locals are attempting to secure an emergency beacon after the 12ft lighthouse was knocked to its foundations.
The island suffered extensive damage with cars swept away from the pier and roads torn up.
The Aran Islands also suffered extensive damage to coastal roads. The Plassey ship, made famous by the opening credits of 'Father Ted', was almost dislodged in the gale. The boat is now sitting at a different angle.
In Kerry, waves demolished headstones and disturbed graves in an old cemetery in Ballinskelligs.
Train services resumed yesterday at Waterford station having been suspended after a landslide caused the station to close on New Year's Eve. But a number of platforms in the station will remain closed.
In Dublin, the South Wall, which extends four miles into Dublin Bay, was closed past Poolbeg due to flooding.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) pleaded with motorists to drive with care and to allow extra time for journeys given the freak weather conditions.