Thursday 8 December 2016

We failed to predict extreme downpour, Met Eireann admits

Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent

Published 26/10/2011 | 05:00

Canoeist Gerry Brennan in a car park in Monaghan town
Canoeist Gerry Brennan in a car park in Monaghan town

MET Eireann admitted last night it underestimated the amount of rainfall that was going to fall on Monday.

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As the waters receded, the blame game began over why the public was not better alerted to the risk of flash- flooding.

A month's worth of rain swamped Dublin in a few hours, flooding homes and businesses, and crippling transport services.

But the weather service dismissed any criticism of its forecast as "unfair", insisted it did its best, and said it was not responsible for flood preparations.

Whenever forecasters underestimate extreme weather, the famous gaffe by BBC TV forecaster Michael Fish is recalled.

In what is now known as a 'Michael Fish moment', he famously dismissed what turned out to be the great destructive storm of 1987.

Met Eireann did issue a severe-weather warning at 4pm on Saturday, predicting 40mm-70mm of rainfall in the Dublin region for Monday and Tuesday.

But the problem is that far more rain fell than they predicted. As much as 100mm -- or almost four inches -- fell in some parts of the city, causing chaos and widespread flooding.

Homes and businesses throughout the capital were not prepared for what occurred, and the speed at which the flooding hit.

Extremes

Met Eireann senior forecaster Gerald Fleming said yesterday that its severe weather warning of 40-70mm was accurate for most parts.

"But it would have underestimated it for Dublin," he told the Irish Independent.

"It is very difficult to get the numbers right when you are dealing with extremes.

"The 100mm rainfall was confirmed to a small area, but it did cause immense hardship.

"When we are predicting 70mm, and 100mm happens then you are at the limit of predictability. It is not possible to be 100pc precise."

Mr Fleming said it was "unfair " to criticise Met Eireann as they had updated their severe -weather warning and gave "the heads up" on the possibility of flooding.

Mr Fleming also said that while Met Eireann had predicted heavy rain, it was unable to say which areas of the city would be affected.

"That level of precision would be impossible for any met service."

He said forecasters had been warning about the potential for very heavy rain for six or seven days.

However, on this occasion, the front got stuck over Ireland.

Dublin City Council said it had been preparing for heavy rain but the downpours were worse than expected.

The emergency plan kicked in at 8pm on Monday night when it became became apparent there was more rain than expected, a city council spokesman said.

"In fairness to Met Eireann, they had been warning about it all week but it was worse than had been anticipated," he added.

Irish Independent

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