CORK city has suffered its worst flooding for over six years as drains and water defences were overwhelmed by the combination of a storm surge, high tides, gusting winds and torrential rainfall during a 24 hour period.
Flooding was also reported in Bantry, Kinsale and Youghal as a storm surge and high tides left numerous quayside roads totally impassable.
In Cork city, dozens of traders who had been hoping for bumper sales before closing for six weeks under the Level Five Covid-19 lockdown were left devastated as flood waters swept past sandbags and door seals.
Damage was also caused to dozens of cars parked on low-lying streets. The repair bill for the tidal flooding is now expected to run to several million Euro.
Worst hit by flooding were low-lying quays including Fr Mathew Quay, Sharman-Crawford Street, Wandesford Quay, Union Quay, Morrison's Island, the South Terrace and parts of the South Mall.
Flood waters then surged up Caroline Street and Winthrop Street onto Oliver Plunkett Street, one of Cork's busiest shopping thoroughfares.
The worst of the commercial damage was focused on Oliver Plunkett Street, Winthrop Street and the South Mall.
At one point, the flood waters on Winthrop Street were so deep that heavy metal beer kegs floated away from outside closed pubs.
Some premises were left under 40cm of dirty flood waters.
Business owners warned that it once again raised issues over the delay in the €140m Cork flood defence scheme first promised after more than
€100m in damage was caused by catastrophic flooding in 2009.
Cork City Council official David Joyce said the flooding was significantly worse than on Monday evening.
"It is the worst flooding we have had in nearly five years and it is a very significant event," he said.
"It is a very challenging situation and we are doing everything we can to assist property owners."
Mr Joyce said that the wind direction prevented the flood waters from receding as quickly as council officials hoped after the peak of high tide - exacerbating the flood damage.
He said the flooding was due to the combination of high astronomical tides, the wind direction and heavy rainfall over recent days.
Vodafone store manager, Steve Andrews, said it was the last thing traders wanted as they tried to secure a final sales surge before the lockdown.
"We had tried to prepare for it last night. We had sandbags down but they were pointless in the end," he said.
Luckily, they had placed computers and stock out of the reach of the flood waters.
"This was the last thing that anyone needed with the lockdown coming. It is going to cause serious financial hardship for businesses across the city centre."
"We had expected the place to be absolutely thronged for the next two days before lockdown as people did extra shopping."
Sean Murphy said he was out walking his dog when suddenly he realised the water was pouring towards the city centre from the quays.
"One minute Winthrop Street was dry except for a few puddles and then, ten minutes later, it was completely under water. It gushed up so fast - I'd never seen it flood so fast before."
At O'Mahony Jewellers, Steve Kennedy said it was the worst flooding they had endured since 2014.
"In fairness, it is not as bad as the floods of 15 or 20 years ago.
But it is not what we wanted before the lockdown and before Christmas," he said.
On the South Mall, Brock Lewin of Badger & Dodo cafe said the sheer scale of the flooding was a major shock.
"Cork City Council had given us sandbags and we had some barriers as well but it doesn't do much when you see the water flowing like that."
Tidal flooding hit Cork city, Bantry, Kinsale and Youghal as the flow of water overwhelmed drains and some flood defences.
In Bantry, parts of the quay were left impassable as water surged through drains.
Motorists were urged to avoid parts of Bantry, particularly along the quays, while council crews and the local fire brigade dealt with the flood waters.
Throughout Cork, sandbags had been distributed to residents and traders who were urged to take adequate flood precautions at their properties.
A number of road closures were ordered around Cork city centre.
The Status Yellow rainfall alert will remain in place until Tuesday evening - with rainfall sufficiently heavy to pose a risk of flash flooding on mountainous areas.
All 26 counties in the Republic are subject to the Status Yellow rainfall alert as well as five counties in Northern Ireland.
Motorists have been warned that some of the rain showers will be torrential. Cork Co Council had also issued a flood alert with concern over the impact of tides in both Cork harbour and Bantry Bay.
"The Office of Public Works (OPW) has advised that there will be a period of very high astronomical Spring Tides in all coastal areas until Tuesday," a spokesperson said.
"Whilst storm surge levels are currently relatively low in all coastal areas, they are predicted to significantly increase in some coastal areas from Monday afternoon until Tuesday."
The storm surge could reach 0.55 metre in Cork harbour and slightly lower in west Cork.
"High tides, combined with strong winds and predicted storm surge levels, give an elevated risk of coastal flooding, in particular in areas such as Bantry, which are prone to coastal flooding."
Motorists were advised to drive with caution during heavy rain and not to drive through flood waters. Property owners are also advised to take precautions in low lying areas or areas susceptible to flooding.