Tuesday 12 December 2017

Wild, wild West as Desmond lands a knockout

Floods in Tralee
Floods in Tralee
The sea pounds Salthill in Galway
BLOWN AWAY: The dogs still have to be taken out in Westport, Co Mayo

Ralph Riegel, Jerome Reilly, David Raleigh, Greg Harkin and  Caroline Crawford

Storm Desmond landed a massive uppercut of storm-force winds and incessant rain that left the entire western seaboard, and parts of the Midlands, stunned and dazed.

As the five counties of Connacht, and Cork, Kerry, Clare and Donegal awake this morning after a 36-hour onslaught, many roads will remain impassable, homes will be without power and tens of thousands of acres of farmland are either flooded, or so waterlogged as to be effectively useless until 2016.

And for some householders, the great clean-up begins as floodwaters recede from houses and businesses.

The Defence Forces deployed Army personnel and vehicles to Cork and Kerry last night following requests from the local authorities in the region.

A platoon of troops was deployed to Bandon, Co Cork, to assist in flood defence work. Soldiers were also sent to Kenmare, Tralee and Bantry.

Tralee was particularly hard hit by localised flooding in residential areas. Troops were called to evacuate an elderly couple from their home near Glenflesk in Co Kerry due to flooding. However, they managed to get out safely before the Army arrived.

In Cork, the concern was that heavy rainfall on mountains in Kerry and north Cork would result in flooding across Lee, Blackwater and Funcheon river valleys .

Householders in flood-prone towns, including Fermoy and Mallow, were on high alert as darkness fell last night with new Office of Public Works (OPW) protection systems set to receive their first major test. Strong winds caused havoc for commuters for the second time in five days in Cork.

Thousands of householders across Munster were left without power as winds, which gusted to more than 100kph, brought down trees and power lines.

Clare County Council urged people to maintain their flood-protection measures until this evening.

Senior engineer Paul Moroney said flooding was inevitable given the level of rainfall.

"All river systems throughout the county are very elevated following continued heavy rainfall in recent weeks.

"The heavy rainfall accompanied by sustained strong gale to storm-force winds, with gusts which will exceed 100kph, resulted in dangerous driving conditions."

The Glow Christmas Festival in Cork was cancelled yesterday, together with its Yuletide food market.

A marathon in Clonakilty was cancelled as were sports events in Tralee and Killarney.

Fire crews were still battling to save homes in the north west of the country last night as a month's worth of rain fell in a day-and-a-half.

Homes in Donegal town, which were flooded just three weeks ago, were flooded again.

Emergency services were also in place around the twin towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar as the River Finn rose to dangerous levels.

Crews from 15 stations across Donegal had spent Friday night filling emergency sandbags. A number of these were placed at the entrance to Letterkenny General Hospital. A stream in the area which caused flooding two years ago was being monitored hourly.

Civil Defence volunteers helped farmers move animals to higher ground. Lands which had never been flooded in recent memory were under five inches of water.

Met Eireann's Status Red alert weather warning - its highest - issued well in advance of the storm's arrival at around 6pm on Friday, was well heeded.

Shops and town centres were eerily quiet as Christmas shoppers observed warnings to avoid non-essential travel and to stay indoors.

Gale-force winds caused power cuts, mainly in the west and north-west, but in other areas also.

By teatime yesterday, around 3,600 customers were without power, involving 95 separate faults.

The main areas affected were Tuam, Letterkenny, Killybegs, Belmullet, Galway, Athlone and Mitchelstown.

Crews worked into the night to restore power and this morning were preparing to go out again to repair major faults caused mostly by high winds bringing down power lines.

Motorists in Galway were warned to avoid the N59 west of Oughterard after a river bust its banks.

The Belmullet to Ballina Road in Co Mayo became completely impassable due to the River Deel bursting its banks. Severe flooding was reported in the area.

The strong winds also caused Christmas lights to fall in Galway city, blocking Eglington Street.

Emergency services also reported that a number of vehicles had been abandoned on flooded roads. Motorists forced to abandon vehicles were asked to contact gardai to give the vehicles' location.

The storm whipped across the east coast at tea-time.

Flights into and out of Irish airports were affected by the weather, with some cancelled and others diverted.

Delays and cancellations affected flights into and out of Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Kerry airports.

Ryanair cancelled dozens of flights from Dublin Airport yesterday morning and disruption continued throughout the day. Its flights were not operating at Cork.

Aer Lingus cancelled 39 regional flights, affecting 2,000 passengers in Ireland and at a number of UK airports.

All Irish Rail services were operating but there were delays of up to 20 minutes to Galway services and 15 minutes on services to Cork due to weather issues.

Both gardai and the AA urged motorists to slow down and drive with extreme caution, given the risk posed by localised flooding and the threat of fallen trees.

The advance warning meant roads were generally quiet.

The weather alerts will remain in place until later today when Storm Desmond is expected to have fully passed over Ireland.

Sunday Independent

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