Sunday 16 December 2018

The ferocious storm took us by surprise

Nobody was expecting Storm Eleanor to be as fierce as she was, ripping up trees and breaking power lines across the county, cutting power to over 2,000 homes. Storm-battered householders and businesses in the worst hit areas of south Sligo told Sorcha Crowley of their terror as Eleanor hit

The damage done to Sligo by Storm Eleanor
The damage done to Sligo by Storm Eleanor
Tommy Killoran behind the bar in Killoran’s Pub, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry

It was the roars of Storm Eleanor hitting his father's farm in Chaffpool that frightened Francis Brennan the most.

He was just about to let the cows into their new milking parlour around 6.30pm for milking when violent gusts hit the shed.

"I thought the shed was going to come in on top of me. The steel sides of the milking sheds waved in and out like an accordian bellows," he told The Sligo Champion at his father, John Brennan's farm the following morning.

"It was like a jet engine roaring above the noise of the milking machine. Water was spraying in under the roof. You could nearly pinpoint the gusts that did the damage," he said.

It blew down a tree at Doocastle, breaking power lines and cutting off the Brennan's electricity just as the cows were ready to be milked.

Francis had to abandon the milking and herd the cows back into their shed.

"They were outside in the yard waiting to get into the milking parlour but when I went around to let them back into their shed they sprinted back inside," he said.

"I remember Hurricane Debbie in '61 but last night was as bad," recalled his father John.

Bales of hay were lifted from sheds and thrown into the yard. Buckets of lime were strewn "all over the place."

"It was like a wild animal that had arrived," added his mother Martina who had been indoors with her daughter Hillary preparing dinner for relatives from Donegal.

All were shocked at the ferociousness of the winds which they said came "completely out of the blue".

"We got a Yellow warning but normally with a yellow warning you just think it'll be a bit windy," said Francis.

"That was far, far more violent than Hurricane Ophelia," he said.

"It was so frightening," agreed Hillary. "Even the noise of it. I live in Dublin and when Hurricane Ophelia hit we had everything prepared.

"I know Storm Eleanor was for a very short time but it was very frightening, even more so when someone was working outside," she said.

Luckily they have a gas hob and so were able to laugh at their "beautiful meal by candlelight" for their visitors.

But Francis had another narrow escape going home to his own farm later that night.

He was meeting an oncoming car and a branch of a tree fell out onto the road in front of him, hitting his car.

"The grill on the front is damaged and it cracked the bumper. When I got home, a shed door had come off a runner and there were bits of tin everywhere," he added.

Their power was restored by midday on Wednesday, allowing Francis to finally milk the cows, a day later than expected.

Three miles north, his uncle Noel Henry was still in the dark in Achonry. He and his wife Mary, son James, daughter Sarah and his 97-year-old father-in-law Patrick Quinn were also plunged into black around 6.30pm last Tuesday.

Unlike the Brennan's, they had exchanged their gas hob for an electric one some years ago and so had nothing to cook a hot meal with.

"We'll have to get gas today. They say the power will be back around 4.30pm or so," Noel told this newspaper at his home just off the N17.

Across the boreen, ESB crews were in a field tending to fallen power lines and trees.

Around the corner, a line of trees lie uprooted on their sides, their huge roots sticking up into the air.

Tubbercurry town centre was entirely without power from 6.30pm, forcing many businesses to close early.

Several older people living alone in rural areas checked into the family-run Murphy's Hotel on Teeling Street.

This too however, lost power for the first time ever, as did their Eurospar shop next door.

"We never had a power failure before," said Paul Murphy, who had to close the Eurospar early.

"We had three older people who live alone check in because they were afraid on their own," he said.

Luckily they were able to provide hot drinks, candles and torches for guests but Paul admitted "checking in was a nightmare" due to the lack of power.

Power was restored to the buildings shortly after midnight, allowing them to provide hot breakfasts to guests as normal the following morning.

"Everything was back to normal this morning, everything's ok now," he said.

Further down the road, Nancy Coen also had to close up Coen's garage early on Tuesday evening after the power cut.

Across the road, Tommy Killoran of Killoran's Pub closed up early.

"I had a premonition. I had a feeling. I could hear the wind out the back roaring," he said.

Sure enough, a tree crashed into his backyard.

"Luckily it didn't do any harm," he told us, serving hot tea and biscuits from behind the bar.

"A few of my neighbours helped out and we all have timber for the next few months," he laughed.

"It was hanging over the public road between me and another neighbour. We were lucky nobody got hurt. It could have been worse," he said.

His sister Margaret lives behind the pub with his elderly mother Anne and father Tommy -they had power restored late Tuesday night.

"I went up home to Rocklands where I live after checking on my parents and went out to the turf shed," said Tommy.

"I thought I was gone with the winds, they were so fierce," he said.

"We were all in complete darkness but we were safe," he added.

Sligo Champion