Sunday 23 October 2016

'We won't let floods sink Christmas' vow defiant locals in Carrick-on-Shannon

Carrick-on-Shannon's residents take the high road in their on-going battle of the floods

Claire McCormack

Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30

DSN Fitness Gym owner Siofra O'Connor stands outside her apartment in the Inver Geal apartment complex in Carrick On Shannon last Wednesday. Photo: Tony Gavin
DSN Fitness Gym owner Siofra O'Connor stands outside her apartment in the Inver Geal apartment complex in Carrick On Shannon last Wednesday. Photo: Tony Gavin

They missed the premiere of the new Star Wars movie due to the three-feet-deep flood in front of the cinema, but the force remains strong with the people of Carrick-on-Shannon.

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From assembling make-shift bridges over flooded carparks, organising shuttle bus services across both sides of the river, to sharing toilet facilities with neighbouring businesses and setting up social media groups, natives living along the weir of the marshy bridge say: "We are staying afloat".

Standing in a newly formed lake outside her apartment block, located in the colourful Inver Geal complex on the Roscommon side of the Shannon, Siofra O'Connor said people are frustrated, but that "there is no point getting down or being depressed".

"Yes, it's a ridiculous situation, but we have to focus on solutions," she said.

"It's been like living on a movie set for the last two weeks, our apartment complex is surrounded by floods at the front and the Shannon at the back, but the water hasn't come in, so we have to look at the bright side," she said.

In 2009, Ms O'Connor, a fitness instructor who runs three businesses in town, was forced to evacuate her old apartment in the same complex - just four doors down.

"The water came up through the floorboards, we were flooded out of it and had to be moved," said Ms O'Connor, pointing to a car submerged up to the steering wheel in front of her former residence.

"We've been lucky, it's starting to recede. We can't park outside but that's minor compared to last time," she said.

"The whole community is rowing in behind each other; we all understand, we know what people are going through so we're coming up with new ideas to salvage Christmas and make the best of this situation," she said.

Although the vast majority of businesses, on both sides of the Shannon, are trading and open for business, parking is a major problem for shoppers and staff.

Mary McEvoy, who works at Enhance Health and Beauty, says so far people are still making the trek for their Christmas beauty treatments, but "we're not getting much passing trade".

"There isn't a lot of footfall and people think we're closed because of the massive flood outside. It might affect us in voucher sales, but we won't know that until the end of the month," said Ms McEvoy, adding that the Roscommon side of the bridge, where Supervalu, Lidl and Mulvey's Toymaster are based, is the worst hit area.

"The flood has stopped traffic going up the one-way street of the town, and that's causing a huge bottle-neck at the bridge and preventing people from coming out this side," she said.

"This place was a flood plain to begin with; businesses shouldn't have to deal with this. We're joined up with the Shannon right now, we're part of the flow," she said.

"Everybody has an opinion on the floods, but you need experts to look at this and to stop it from happening again. At the moment we have a lot of chiefs and not enough indians," she said.

Standing behind a wall of sandbags, Rachel O'Malley, manager at Victoria Hall Restaurant, said that, although they've remained open, it's been impossible to access deliveries.

"There has been a big visual impact on us, we're surrounded by water so people think we're closed. We've had Christmas party cancellations and it's a tough to swallow. This is usually our busiest time of year," she said.

Joe Dolan, owner of The Bush Hotel, said flooding on main roads into the town is their biggest problem.

"A lot of our revenue comes from the by-pass, so that's certainly a blow. But we're a resilient bunch and we're remaining upbeat about Christmas week," he said.

A survey by Retail Excellence Ireland revealed a sharp divide in Christmas shopping between Dublin and the rest of the country, with strong trade in the capital but weak business in provincial stores.

As water levels drop, Leitrim County Council said it will continue to operate a flood management process, but clean-up will not be considered until floods recede.

Flood defences are being maintained and diversions and road closures remain in place at the N4 - between the Townspark and Tesco Roundabout, Park Lane, Quay Street - and the main route from Carrick-on-Shannon to Manorhamilton is closed. Routes to and from Leitrim village are also closed.

Despite limited access to Carrick-on-Shannon, shoppers are being encouraged to buy local this Christmas instead of journeying to Dublin, Sligo and Galway.

However, the children of Carrick-on-Shannon can rest assured that Santa Claus will make it through the floods this Christmas Eve, as local girl, Heidi Caldbeck (11) has asked Saint Nicholas to intervene.

Unknown to her parents, Grainne and Derek, Heidi was fully aware of the anxiety over the Shannon floods while on a trip to the heart of the Arctic Circle in Lapland last week.

Heidi penned a special wish, 'Make sure Carrick stops flooding' and placed it in Santa's 'Drum of Dreams'.

Santa has told her that he will use "all his powers to help".

Sunday Independent

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