Saturday 17 March 2018

Storm Emma aftermath: Heavy flooding 'likely', 25,000 households without power and warning issued over road conditions

  • Snowfall has ceased in most areas
  • Met Éireann downgrade Red warning to Orange for Munster, Leinster, Cavan and Monaghan - remains in place until 6pm this evening
  • Yellow snow-ice warning remains in place for Connacht and Donegal until 6pm this evening
  • Department of Education 'monitoring the situation'
  • 25,000 households without electricity
  • Motorists urged to avoid any unnecessary journeys
  • Heavy rain expected in the afternoon
  • 10,000 households still without water
Passers-by help push a 4x4 out of the snow on Chesterfield Avenue, Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photo: Conor McCabe
Passers-by help push a 4x4 out of the snow on Chesterfield Avenue, Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photo: Conor McCabe

Paul Melia and Amy Molloy

Serious fears have emerged about the flooding threat to the country as heavy rain later today is to combine with melting snow.

A "conveyor belt" of precipitation which fell as snow overnight, as high winds and sub-zero temperatures continue to wreak havoc.

While Met Eireann believes the snow risk has now subsided in most areas, there are concerns that a belt of heavy rain this afternoon could combine with melting snow to create a major flood risk.

"It is very hard to say how rapid the thaw will be, but there is a significant risk of flooding in the east and south east," forecaster Gerry Murphy told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"Temperatures will increase to between 3 and 5 degrees which means that anything which falls will be rain and sleet.

"The roads are still extremely dangerous, so only take absolutely necessary journeys."

25,000 households, farms and businesses are still without power this morning, some for more than 24 hours, an ESB spokesman said.

ESB Networks said it will be today at the earliest before repair crews can access isolated parts of the country. Cork, Enniscorthy, Arklow, the Greater Dublin Area and eastern counties of Leinster are worst affected.

There is no certainty that schools in many areas will be able to reopen on Monday. And there are now serious concerns that Storm Emma will result in communities being cut off for days, with water supplies at risk in Galway, Cork, Mayo and Cavan.

The HSE has said it could be up to two weeks before hospitals return to business as usual.

"The snow drifting which has occurred is going to pose particular problems," NECG chairman Sean Hogan said. "Local roads will take a considerable period of time [to thaw] and it will be very difficult. Individual houses may be inaccessible."

He added it would take a number of days before life returned to normal, particularly in Wexford, Waterford, south Carlow, Wicklow, Meath and Louth, which continued to be battered overnight.

High spring tides already pose a flooding risk in Cork city, low-lying areas of Cork county and Waterford county, in Limerick, Dundalk, Dublin and the Shannon Estuary.

While temperatures are expected to rise across Cork, Kerry and into parts of Waterford from today, Met Éireann is predicting a slow thaw.

But river levels are also high, meaning when the snow melts it will exacerbate the risk. Experts are hoping against a fast thaw, as this will likely lead to flooding. Met Éireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack said: "It's something we're very concerned about".

Intense snowfall fell for much of yesterday along the east and south-east coast, which is piling up. On Dublin's M50, snow was falling faster than it could be cleared. Transport Infrastructure Ireland said abandoned cars were hampering efforts to keep roads open, with a spokesman urging the public to only travel when absolutely necessary.

"It's not helpful that people are travelling unnecessarily, and there's a particular issue on interchanges off the M50 which are on inclines," he said.

Airports are expected to re-open today, but Aer Lingus has cancelled more than 50 flights from Dublin Airport as weather continues to wreak havoc with schedules. Ryanair has also cancelled more than a dozen flights to and from Dublin.

Public transport will take longer to come back on line, and many areas are unlikely to see a return to services today.

Most public transport services will not attempt to resume operations until noon at the earliest.

Local authorities continue to salt and grit roads, but conditions are treacherous in many areas. Hundreds of motorists were rescued after becoming stranded. Roadways to food depots have been prioritised for clearing, amid concerns that staples could run low in remote parts of the country.

The Defence Forces have dealt with 81 individual call-outs, while the Coast Guard assisted in 400 incidents.

Irish Independent

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