A DOZEN counties are on flood alert with swollen rivers being monitored hourly as Ireland braces itself for yet another Atlantic storm.
Torrential rainfall is forecast over the next 48 hours, raising fears that more homes and businesses will be flooded.
While water levels in the River Shannon remain high but stable, there is mounting concern over the levels of the Rivers Lee, Slaney, Suir, Blackwater, Nore and Barrow.
The National Emergency Co-ordination Centre (NECC) said while the threat of coastal flooding will recede with the easing of spring tides, there is now a growing threat of river-based flooding.
"This (torrential) rain will serve to top up the already near capacity of our rivers and poses a major risk," the NECC warned.
Cork is bracing itself for the threat of a third bout of city centre flooding in five days with another high tide forecast for this evening. Traders – who are estimated to have suffered €50m in damage after the twin floods on Monday and Tuesday – remain on alert for further possible flooding at high tide this evening.
Concern is also focused on the fact the Inniscarra Dam, upstream on the River Lee, is now less than two metres from its maximum permissible water level.
Once water reaches a level of 50.5m, the ESB must begin controlled releases to ease pressure – posing a further headache for Cork city, which is downstream.
Enniscorthy in Wexford has narrowly avoided disastrous flooding on the River Slaney over the past 36 hours, while exceptionally high water levels have been recorded for the Shannon at both Athlone in Westmeath and Shannonbridge in Offaly.
Levels of the Shannon are also being carefully monitored in Limerick, which suffered the worst flooding in modern history last weekend. The River Barrow is also close to breaking its banks at Athy in Kildare.
However, rugby fans attending the Ireland-Wales Six Nations clash in Dublin's Aviva Stadium may escape with just a few showers as torrential rainfall isn't predicted in the capital until Saturday evening. However, winds are expected to gust to 70kmh throughout the day.
A 'yellow alert' warning has been issued for Dublin, Kerry, Cork, Louth, Wexford, Wicklow, Meath and Waterford with damaging gusts possible over this evening and into tomorrow.
Office of Public Works (OPW) Minister Brian Hayes toured flood-hit parts of Cork and Kerry.
He vowed that the Government will do everything possible to help flood-hit homes and businesses – but again warned that Ireland needs to "ramp up flood defence spending".
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney acknowledged he was "impatient" to get Cork's long-stalled flood defence plan under way.
"But we must have a system that works . . . we need to ensure that when it is built it is a full and comprehensive job that will protect Cork for the next 50 years," he said.
Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy warned the city cannot accept a two-year construction delay given three damaging floods in just four weeks.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan insisted the Government will do everything possible to fast-track flood payments under the €25m support scheme.
However, he warned that while emergency payments are already being made, more substantial payments will take a number of weeks to process given the need to assess individual claims.
The Irish Red Cross has indicated it hopes to be able to provide up to €1,000 per household for families in dire need due to flood damage.
The charity has appealed for public support for those who have borne the brunt of flood-related damage since Christmas.