THE CLEAN UP of north Wexford took place last week following Christmas Day flooding that saw people needing to be rescued from cars in Castletown, houses being pumped out in Riverchapel and businesses damaged in Ballycanew.
The heavy rain began at about 2 p.m. in the afternoon and soon took hold which called emergency services into action.
Edward Rossiter of Gorey Fire Service said that it’ll be a long time before he forgets the “freak event” on Christmas Day which had the crews out for close to 12 hours answering emergency calls.
“We got called first around 2.30 p.m. to the motorway and it not long at that when we were called to a second one. We knew then there was going to be more as the motorway was flooded on both sides between junction 24 and 25. We called Arklow and Carnew crews in to close the motorway and try alleviate the flood waters. We had nowhere we could pump water to as it was flowing in from both sides of the road.
“One man was trapped in a van at the Ahare river in Castletown as there was fairly rapid moving water there at the time so we had to rescue him, but a lot of people got stuck in their cars”.
Calls continued until around 1.30 a.m. on St Stephen’s Day.
“We had eight flood related calls and due to the amount of calls, we had to close the roads using cones and signs as there was nothing else we could do. We had people travelling roads that were just impassable, and you wouldn’t get the fire engine down never mind a car,” said Edward.
Ballycanew was badly hit, while calls came from Gorey town, Inch and Coolgreany but it was Courtown and Rivercapel where devastation could be seen as houses had to be pumped.
"We attended two houses in Riverchapel, one was flooded and was pumped out while one was just about to be flooded and we stopped that. We didn’t get to every house, but we saw Christmas presents damaged as well and it’s not nice and no amount of money changes it.
"I imagine the clean up will go on for a long time after seeing some of the state of the roads and things washed away”.
Mr Rossiter encouraged homes and businesses to avail of the Humanitarian Assistance scheme saying that it won’t change what has happened but might provide some relief.
He added that this type of weather may be more prominent in the future.
“It’s hard to know the reason for it but climate change is having an effect as this again was a high quantity of rain in a small time and severe flooding”.
One business badly hit was Springmount Garden Cetnre in Ballycanew, and amid cleaning up, owner Elaine Warren said the team are on track to get open today (Tuesday, January 4).
“When we first came in we saw water seeping through. I was very lucky that I had people there to help and we began by trying to raise as many things as possible off the ground. We did as much as we could until we could do no more, and a certain amount of stock has been damaged beyond repair. We will try avail of the relief scheme but for now, we decided to just put everything that’ll be written off on trollies to get it out of sight.
“Our computers and tills are all still up and running so we’re lucky but it was a challenge because of the time that it happened. It was hard to get things from hardware stores and the people that you’d normally have to call like carpenters and electricians weren’t available so it was Tuesday of last week before we could really make a proper start at trying to repair it”.
Damage was done earlier in December to Springmount as Storm Bara hit, and Ms Warren said that she believes climate change needs to be taken seriously.
"I’m afraid I truly believe that this is climate change in action. This is something we have listen up about because we simply didn’t have this before. We need to react accordingly as how we treat the planet affects how we will live.
"If there’s been one positive out of this, the reaction from the community has been genuinely phenomenal and has taken the sting out of it. I’ve been very touched by messages of support we’ve received.
"It has been community at its best as we had a lot of offers to come in and help which has given us all a boost. I’ve always said that the team here are like a family, but even though they were all on holidays with their family they’ve come in and put their plans to one side. Without them, we wouldn’t be opening this week”.
Gorey woman Attracta Hempenstall who lives in Clonattin found herself using sweeping brushes to get the water away from her front door on Christmas Day.
“When I first saw the water flowing after one of the drains flew up in the air two foot, I thought something had happened with the tank in the attic. At the beginning it looked like water was coming in from next door down our drive, and I had a look out and said to myself then that it was getting too close for comfort as it was approaching the front door.
"Thankfully the water didn’t get over the step of the front door but it was very close, I really don’t know how we kept it out of the house. I gave a shout out in desperation to the neighbours, and even they were surprised at how fast the water came and we couldn’t understand it. Our drains were clear beforehand, but it was just the volume of water that came so quickly out of nowhere that nothing would have been able to take it and the water couldn’t go anywhere”.
Attracta's garage was hit and she had to put old duvets down to soak up the water.
“We got out in our welly boots, coat and hat but sure the water went up over them and we were wet to the socks and feet. We were left standing in about two feet or so of water.
“We experienced something similar like this maybe 20 years ago and I had a flashback of that while this was happening, but this was ten times worse and it was so strange and sudden.
“We swept and swept to try push it up our natural path that’s at the side of the house, we were just trying our best to keep it away from the house. We were grateful it didn’t but other neighbours found themselves in similar situations".
Attracta’s house also suffered during Storm Barra, with the window of her green house being destroyed.
“I’m thinking about getting flood barriers for the house now because some now I think we’ll be seeing this more and more and it’s a bit more extreme than we’re used to. We’re quite high up here but still a tree came down and our window was blown out due to the force of the gust”.