Tuesday 20 August 2019

Local family caught up in Greek storm

Margaret Roddy

A Dundalk mother has spoken about the moment when her family were caught in a violent storm which killed seven people and left more than 100 injured in northern Greece last Wednesday, describing it like being 'in a shipwreck'.

Emily Woodcock was on holiday with her three children when the terrifying storm swept over the northern Halkidiki peninsula ripping up trees and power pylons, overturned vehicles and leaving swathes of debris across the coast.

They family were staying in a holiday home belonging to her father Peter Hughes in a small village near the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city.

'We knew a storm was coming but it wasn't due until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, so we weren't worried when we were standing outside around 9pm watching the storm in the distance. We could see the clouds and the lightening but thought it was just a normal storm.'

She told her daughters, Elsie (7) and Florence (3), that it was nothing to worry about, that lightening storms are a regular occurrence in Greece.

'Within five minutes the electricty had gone off but the storm was still in the distance. Dad went inside to get candles and the next thing the sky just turned white because of the lightening.'

Emily says it was then that she realised that it wasn't a normal storm and took her daughters into the house, where they struggled to get the shutters on one of the windows closed.

'The house was battered by the storm and it felt like we were in a shipwreck. The water was coming down the chimney and under the door and the noise of the wind and rain on the roof of the house was terrifying.'

Emily's main concern was keeping her daughters calm while eleven month old Charlie slept through the whole ordeal.

'After we got the girls to bed, we went outside, and Dad asked me if I had put the table and chairs away. We had been sitting on them earlier but they were gone after the storm.'

As everywhere was plunged in darkness, she said it wasn't until the next morning that they realised how devastating the storm had been and how lucky they were.

'We did see blue lights, cars with their hazzard lights and a lot of commotion so we realised some people were in trouble.'

The next morning, Emily says they realised just what a narrow escape they had.

'A tornado had passed right over our house and made its way to the beach. There were massive holes in the shutters from hailstones and tiles missing from the roof, even though the houses beside us were undamaged'.

'When we went down to the beach, we saw that the beach bar we had been at the previous day was completely demolished while the ones on either side were still standing.'

She says that the local people were saying that they never experienced such a powerful storm in their lives.

Emily appeared on the RTE One news as she gave an update of what it was like to be at the centre of the storm.

A state of emergency was declared in the region, a three-finger peninsula near the northern city of Thessaloniki popular with tourists in the summer.

Emily says that the family regularly spend holidays there and her husband flew out to join her on Monday.

The storm followed a spell of very hot weather, with temperatures soaring to 37C. Winds of more than 100kmh were recorded.

The Argus