Monday 16 July 2018

Storm Eleanor aftermath: Massive clean-up operation underway as country braces for more gale force winds

  • At least 15,000 homes and businesses currently without electricity
  • Kevin 'Boxer' Moran warns of 'worrying trend' in extreme weather events
  • Financial support offered to those worst affected
  • Number of people rescued from cars in Galway overnight
  • Motorists in Mayo advised to avoid travelling due to high number of fallen trees and debris
  • Three new weather warnings issued; orange wind warning and two yellow wind warnings
  • Warning for Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork and Kerry in place until 2pm today
Kevin 'Boxer' Moran with sandbags in Galway, one of the worst counties affected by Storm Eleanor. Photo: Andrew Downes
Storm Eleanor kicks off with its wrath in Lahinch, Co. Clare. Photograph Press 22
River Shannon bursting it's banks in Limerick city during Storm Eleanor
Boys walk their dog on Howth Pier in windy conditions. Photo: Tony Gavin
Story Eleanor kicks off in Lahinch, Co. Clare. Photograph Press 22

Laura Larkin, Sasha Brady, Caroline Crawford, & Allison Bray

Two more mini-storms are on the way in the next 48 hours before a "dramatic change" sees temperatures plummet.

Homeowners and businesses along the south and east coast are now being warned of a "real risk" of further flooding in the wake of Storm Eleanor.

Emergency responders, ministers and Met Eireann have held a meeting in Dublin to assess the situation for the coming hours.

Chair of National Emergency Co-ordination Centre Sean Hogan said there is "unfortunately still some threat coming towards us".

Neil McNeilis who owns Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery on Quay Street saw significant damage to his business with Storm Eleanor. Photo: Andrew Downes
Neil McNeilis who owns Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery on Quay Street saw significant damage to his business with Storm Eleanor. Photo: Andrew Downes
Storm Eleanor at Sarsfield Bridge in Limerick Credit: Brendan Gleeson
Storm Eleanor in Limerick City Credit: Brendan Gleeson
Defying Storm Eleanor and the driving rain on the banks of the river Shannon in Limerick were Professor Hollie Schillig, California State University(left) with her students of World History (Photo: Liam Burke Press 22)

He urged people along the south and west coast to stay away from coastlines until the windy weather passes on Friday.

Met Eireann's Evelyn Cusack said two smaller weather events will take place in the southwest in the coming days.

"This is not a major event that we know of as yet," she said, but added that it's "not certain" what way the approaching weather fronts will develop.

By the weekend there will be a "dramatic change" with a return to calm but very cold weather with heavy frost at night.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy insisted suitable preparation and planning was in place in Galway yesterday but forecasters and local authorities "can't predict everything that will happen".

"We believed the main problems would be this morning," he said.

Floodwaters caused significant damage to homes and businesses across Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes
Floodwaters caused significant damage to homes and businesses across Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes
Fallen tree in Clondalkin Credit: DFB
Alden Road, Bayside Credit: DFB
Women walk on Howth Pier. Photo: Tony Gavin 2/1/2018

Damage

Meanwhile, business owners in Galway have been counting the cost of the devastating floods which hit the city yesterday, with the destruction causing hundreds of thousands of euro damage.

As Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran toured the city early this morning, business owners were back at their premises continuing to clean up the flood waters which wreaked havoc in the space on an hour yesterday evening.

However, despite losing out in tens of thousands worth of stock and equipment, business owners were today clear that further warnings would have done little to stop the destruction.

Neil McNeilis who owns Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery on Quay Street saw the water rise to waist level in his shop within minutes.

"We had two customers in the shop when this happened. I had just walked over to the Claddagh and by the time I walked back the water was rising unbelieveably. It was up to my waist in minutes.

Emergency supplies outside Galway Medical Centre. Photo: Andrew Downes
Emergency supplies outside Galway Medical Centre. Photo: Andrew Downes

“The main flood barrier was up and it did what it was supposed to do but the water surge was so great that it lifted it and it got damaged from the sheer volume of damage and those things are not supposed to get damaged.

“We need a permanent flood defence system. They were out this morning but sandbags wouldn't have stopped that water,” he added.

Mr McNeilis also lost his car in the flood water after it was totally submerged in water.  He now has to pull up all floorboards and dump all stock packaging. He also needs to fix the electrics damaged in the flood.

People walk on Howth Pier in windy conditions
Pic: Tony Gavin
People walk on Howth Pier in windy conditions Pic: Tony Gavin

"We're into €10,000 and then my car on top of that. I don't know if I'll get a car loan, I'm self employed. We've worked really hard the last 10 years, we had a really good year last year with the Wild Atlantic Way and everything is now gone. We're starting from scratch," he said.

Binod Karki, who owns Kashmir restaurant in the city was also shocked by the sudden surge of water.

“We opened the restaurant as normal and at 5o'clock it just came out of nowhere. It was from everywhere. The back door, kitchen door and side doors. In five minutes it was up to my knees. It was very difficult to get out. We waited a few minutes but it was just rising the whole time. We managed to get up to the upstairs apartment and we were stuck there for two hours and then it started to go down,” he said.

The kitchen, flooring and all stock have been destroyed in the floods with Mr Karki estimating the damage at €20,000.

“It is huge. This was a busy time and we had bought a lot extra. Now it is all lost,” he said.

Joe Hawksley, Manager at Cobwebs Fine and Antique Jewellery was also assessing the damage this morning.

This is the sixth time the shop has been flooded.

“We had just closed at 5pm and within 20 minutes the floods hit. This is the sixth time the shop has been flooded but I haven’t seen it like that before, never that quickly.

“The damage is not as bad as it was in the last flood three or four years ago, we had pulled up the wooden floorboards and replaced them with a concrete floor and tiles so that was ok this time.

“Some electronics have been affected but it’s not too bad. I’ll be opening this morning after I get a coffee. There is a great community here and they are very helpful, we help each other get back on our feet,” he said.

Humanitarian aid

Financial supports have been promised to those affected by Storm Eleanor as a massive clean-up operation is underway in the worst-hit areas and the country braces for continued strong winds.

Flash flooding and high winds caused havoc as the storm slammed into the country last night.

The storm wreaked havoc from west to east of the country last night bring gusts of 155km/h, causing flooding and leaving thousands without power.

At least 134,000 households were left without power at the height of the storm - some 16,000 households and businesses are currently without power.

A further 5,000 customers lost supply this morning due to lightning and high winds.

Crews from around the country have been mobilised to attend the areas and are working in wet and windy conditions to restore power to those affected.

"Those crews will be landing on the ground fairly early this morning," Derek Hynes Operations Manager with ESB Networks.

"We are hopeful to have power back to pretty much everybody by tonight," he added.

He warned that Eleanor will continue to cause damage throughout parts of the country today.

With four separate weather warnings in place, the country bore the worst of the storm between 6pm and 10pm last night.

 

The country convened their Severe Weather Assessment Teams in response to the threat posed by Storm Eleanor.

Customers were left without power in Mayo, Leitrim, Sligo, Galway, Cavan and Monaghan.

This morning Mayo is the county with the most customers out of power, with around 10,000 households and businesses affected. ESB Networks said that fallen trees on overhead lines were responsible for most of the damage to the network.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has said it is available this morning to support householders in areas affected by Storm Eleanor.

The Department’s Community Welfare Services staff will assess the level of service required across the country, particularly in the Galway area, which was hit with the worst of the flooding.

As the clean-up operations begin, financial supports will be made available to householders affected and the Humanitarian Assistance scheme activated as necessary according to the Government.

Minister of State Kevin 'Boxer' Moran this morning told RTE's Morning Ireland that Galway was taken by surprise.

"Within 10 minutes some people were up to waist level in flood waters. They said they've never seen the likes of it before. It frightened people."

Responding to claims from local business and residents that adequate flood warnings were not issued from Galway City Council, Mr Moran said that a lesson can be learned but said today is not a day for a "blame game".

"We had temporary measures in place from early yesterday with high tide warnings over Christmas but the measures we had in place weren't able to deal with that.

"I don't think today is a blame game. My job is to reassure the people that the Government is here to support them in any way we can."

Minister Moran, who is in Galway this morning, said the army has been deployed to the city and skips and humidifiers have been issued to business to assist them with clean-up operations.

He said councils and people need to be more prepared as these "extreme weather events are happening far too often".

"These storms are worrying trends and something we have to get real with," he said.

Minister Moran said that more funding is required for the Flood Relief Schemes  - warning that up to €1bn will be needed to ultimately protect the country from floods.

He said he had enough money for flood relief activities up to 2021 and announced that parts of Galway are included in the 47 schemes which are to be prioriry.

"The people of Galway have suffered enough."

Forecast

Two new weather warnings were issued on Tuesday night at 10pm, a status orange and a status yellow wind warning.

A new yellow warning was issued at 12.30pm today and will come into effect at 3am Thursday morning until 1pm the same day.

The warning covers Munster, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and Wicklow.

It will come into effect at 3am on Thursday morning until 1pm the same day.

The orange wind alert is in effect for Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Limerick until 2pm today

Leinster, Cavan, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary and Waterford are under a status yellow wind warning until 2pm today also.

 

Siobhan Ryan of Met Eireann said that wind will remain a feature over the next couple of days with the Atlantic coastal counties bearing the brunt of the strongest winds with more risks of flooding.

"Winds will remain strong to gale force and very windy today, especially along the west but it will still feel blustery throughout the rest of the country. Squally showers (stormy showers) are also expected today.

"There'll be a lull this evening before a possible storm development overnight."

Met Eireann will issue an update at 1pm today advising if the storm will be strong enough to be a named storm.

Named storms are triggered by a status orange or red warning.

“There is another spell of windy weather expected, with another low moving up Wednesday night and early Thursday again. The south and the southwest will be worst affected."

Meanwhile, it's extremely windy this morning with stormy conditions already in parts of the west.

 

Met Eireann said that a combination of high tide and exceptionally high seas will result in coastal damage and further flooding.

Councils along the south and west of the country convened their Severe Weather Assessment Teams in response to the threat posed by Storm Eleanor.

Aftermath

In Galway, a number of people had to be rescued from flood waters in the city centre. Cars were swept away by flash floods at 6pm in Oranmore. People were helped from their cars as waters suddenly rose over the road.

Cars were also submerged in the nearby train station and in Toft carpark in Salthill. The Spanish Arch, Dock Road, Dominick Street, Merchant’s Road, Fr Griffin Road and Lough Atalia Road were all seriously affected. Galway City Council dispatched clean-up crews as soon as flood waters receded but it was providing sandbags to the public in anticipation of a high tide this morning.

In Cork, flooding was reported in Bantry from early evening. Fire crews pumped water from the streets and drivers were warned to be careful. In Midleton, there was also flash flooding on the Bailick Road.

In Clare, the storm battered the coastline of Lahinch and the N67 experienced flooding on the Kilkee/Killimer Road at Moyasta and Kilrush.

Limerick Council crews were dealing with flooding at Merchant’s Quay near the Potato Market, Sarsfield House and O’Callaghan and Clancy Strands.

In Kerry, the N86 Tralee/Dingle Road was impassable at Blennerville due to flooding.

Mayo County Council announced a Level 2 alert for wind and coastal flooding from 10pm last night until 2pm today.

Members of the public were asked to exercise caution and to be mindful of fallen trees, branches and possible flying debris particularly when driving.

The Irish Coast Guard also issued a warning urging people to stay away from exposed beaches, cliffs, piers and promenades during storm conditions.

The storm caused delays to more than 30 flights at Dublin Airport last night. Most of the delays were to flights due to arrive after 8pm from the UK and Europe.

Stena Line reported disruptions on a number of crossings and Irish Ferries also reported “significant delays”, warning that these would remain until later today.

Flooding

In Oranmore, a number of cars were swept away by flash floods just before 6pm. People were helped from their cars at the roundabout accessing the shopping centre in the village as the waters suddenly rose over the road.

Cars were also left submerged in the nearby train station. All motorists escaped unharmed.

Galway City Council said cleanup crews have been at work since flood waters receded.

It provided a limited number of sandbags to the public last night in preparation for this morning's high tide.

"As flood waters from earlier high tide recede, Galway City Council crews are out clearing gulleys and providing assistance locally in city centre and Salthill.

"A limited number of sandbags will be available for collection and deployment by members of the public from the bus stop opposite Jurys Inn at Fishmarket from around 10pm in advance of the expected high tide at 6am," the statement read.

Parts of Bantry town centre including low-lying parts of the town square flooded from shortly before 5pm last night.

A number of motorists who had parked their vehicles along the quays in front of the Maritime Hotel arrived back to find their vehicles in almost 40cm of water.

Several vehicles were stranded and could only be moved after high tide had passed.

Bantry fire brigade attended the area and helped pump water from the worst affected roadways and parts of the square.

Even when the storm passes, high winds can be expected across the country well into Wednesday, with the warning running until 9pm on Wednesday.

Met Éireann also warn of damage and coastal flooding being possible in all areas.

Air travel delays

30 flights were delayed from Dublin Airport last night.

Passengers are advised to check with their airline for the latest flight updates this morning.

Road users advised to use caution

 

AA Roadwatch are advising motorists to be extra vigilant this morning.

Flood waters have receded but some roads are still affected by excess surface water, fallen trees and debris.

Gardai in Mayo are advising motorists to avoid travelling due to a high number of fallen trees and debris throughout the country.

 

In Galway the promenade has reopened in Salthill but AA Roadwatch are advising that it may be closed again at 6pm today when more strong winds are expected to hit.

Kevin 'Boxer' Moran with sandbags in Galway, one of the worst counties affected by Storm Eleanor. Photo: Andrew Downes
Kevin 'Boxer' Moran with sandbags in Galway, one of the worst counties affected by Storm Eleanor. Photo: Andrew Downes

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