Floods, road closures and travel chaos loom as more rain forecast
TORRENTIAL downpours will bring the threat of further flooding, road closures and havoc on public transport, as gales finally ease only to be replaced by the threat of swollen rivers.
Met Eireann issued severe weather warnings for vast swathes of the country as up to 100mm (four inches) of rain will fall during the coming 10 days.
The warning comes as a big clean-up operation swung into action in the aftermath of Ireland's worst winter storm in 15 years.
Despite the welcome respite from the gales, there is now a serious risk of flooding because of already-heavy rainfall since December 20 and further torrential downpours forecast.
Localised flood warnings were issued in Cork, Galway, Roscommon, Tipperary and Waterford.
Met Eireann warned that rivers were swollen from torrential rainfall over the previous week.
Weather forecasters also warned that the country faced further heavy and possibly thundery showers over the next 24 hours.
A 'yellow status' gale warning remains in place for waters off Ireland.
Forecaster Pat Clarke said that while the rest of the week would be "unsettled", temperatures would remain normal for this time of year.
However, he warned that more than twice the normal rainfall is expected in many parts, with "strong winds" also expected to hit the country over the coming days.
"Both the coast and inland counties face the prospect of flooding. There's also going to be high tides over the next six days," he said.
"There's a risk of flooding countrywide as the week goes on. It won't be raining all the time, but all counties will get well in excess of normal rainfall. There are also high tides at the moment, so there's a risk of some coastal flooding depending on onshore winds," he said.
"Temperatures will be normal; we're not going to have very cold weather."
The worst-affected areas will be in western counties, as heavy bands of rain sweep in from the Atlantic over the next five to seven days.
Gale-force winds could also return to batter the country during the week, with motorists facing dangers posed by flooded roads and falling trees.
"There will be strong gales at times, and because the weather is so disturbed, winds could reach 100kmh.
"There's potential they could develop into storms, but wind speeds of that nature are not forecast at the moment.
"It's an evolving situation, and we'll monitor it to see if they develop into something significant," he added.
The Road Safety Authority pleaded with motorists to drive with caution given the amount of 'spot' flooding on rural and regional roads.
Cork County Council urged motorists to avoid Fermoy as flood barriers were erected to avoid an expected surge in the level of the River Blackwater.
A number of other rivers including the Lee, Bandon and Funcheon were also being monitored for the risk of flooding.
In Tipperary, Clonmel was on flood alert given the rising levels of the River Suir.
Hundreds of acres of farmland are already underneath flood waters.
The cost of repairs nationally to wind and water damage from December's storms is expected to exceed €150m.
The Irish insurance industry said it had been anticipating premium hikes of around 10pc but they could soar to as much as 30pc because of the level of storm-related claims.
Insurance firms also face major claims relating to over 70,000 homes and businesses losing power due to storm damage to the electricity network from December 26.
The scale of the repairs facing ESN Networks and Eircom was at its greatest level for almost 25 years.
Mark O'Regan and Ralph Riegel