YOU know the floods are bad when traders even have to dry the soaked euro bank notes from the 'floats' in their cash registers.
Cork shopkeepers began their biggest tidal flood clean-up since 2004 with many premises wrecked by stinking river water that reached one metre in depth and was exacerbated by drains and toilets that became fountains due to extreme water pressure. It was the fourth flood to hit Cork city centre in four weeks – three caused major damage.
Cork's busiest retail zones, including Oliver Plunkett Street and Patrick Street, resembled raging rivers from 9pm on Tuesday when the River Lee's south quays were swamped by high tides and a one-metre storm surge.
Pamela Scott's manager, Reg Collins, was horrified to discover that even the bank notes in the boutique's tills on Oliver Plunkett Street were soaked.
Ruiseal's Bookshop staff, Fionnuala O'Herlihy and Brid Hayes, thought they had every precaution in place by spending over 12 hours stacking thousands of books one metre or higher off the ground to protect them from flood waters.
"On Monday a bookcase collapsed and the books were destroyed in the water," Brid said. "And last night a table collapsed and dumped the books into the flood. Unfortunately, they were high value books and they were destroyed," she explained.
The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, toured flood-hit shops to offer his support. "There is a remarkable mix of emotions – sadness, frustration and even anger. But there is also determination, generosity and solidarity," he said.
That was best exemplified in the St Patrick's/Marymount Hospice charity store on Oliver Plunkett Street.
The shop's door was breached by the raging torrent and the premises left under more than two feet of stinking water.
Staff Doreen Walsh, Marie Barry and Cait O'Shea were delighted when three Douglas Community School transition year students arrived to help with the mammoth clean-up.
Greg Fuchs from Poland, William Alade from the Ivory Coast and Valerio Dicostanzo from Italy said they were glad to help out.
"They have been fantastic. They got stuck in straight away with mopping up floors, trying to rescue stock and clean the place," Cait said.
Finbarr Cotter of Newbridge Silver faced into his second major clean-up in 36 hours – and admitted the major fear was that Cork city centre could suffer a third bout of flooding next Saturday.
Over 2,500 sandbags and gel flood 'sacks' were distributed by Cork City Council but, even with flood gates, it couldn't stem the torrent.
In MacSweeney's Photography, manager Barry Keating said traders were left powerless in the face of the worst flooding for more than a decade.
"We had some flooding on Monday night but we did everything we could to protect the shop on Tuesday. We had the stock two feet off the ground, we had sandbags in front of the door and I even got some silicon gel and sealed up the door surrounds. But it still poured in and reached over two feet inside the shop," he said.
O'Flynn's Gourmet Sausage manager, David O'Flynn, admitted it is hard to assess the cost of the damage. "The water was about two feet high inside the shop and almost three feet deep outside it on Winthrop Street. The refrigerators and other electrical appliances took the worst of it. We just don't know if they can be fixed," he said.
Saville's Menswear manager, Pam O'Regan, said the unpredictability of the flooding was part of the problem. "Our Saville's shop escaped the worst of the damage but our Tommy Hilfiger outlet next door was really badly hit," she said.