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Thursday 16 August 2018

It ain't over as mini-storm set to hit with big freeze on way

A fishing Boat washed up on the Quay at the Claddagh in Galway City after the flooding
A fishing Boat washed up on the Quay at the Claddagh in Galway City after the flooding

A mini-storm will hit the country today before a "dramatic change" will see temperatures plunge for the weekend.

Homeowners and businesses along the south and west coast are now being warned of a "real risk" of further flooding in the wake of Storm Eleanor.

Emergency responders, ministers and Met Eireann held a meeting in Dublin yesterday to assess the fallout from the storm which left parts of Galway city under water.

They are now concerned that blasts of heavy wind will hit the west coast before sweeping across the country today.

Forecaster Evelyn Cusack says that once that clears people should prepare for an icy spell due to severe night frost.

Affected

At the height of the storm, some 150,000 properties were without power, with a number of water treatment plants affected and some localised cut-offs.

Irish Water reported that 12 of its water treatment plants had been affected by an interrupted power supply.

Minor transport disruption was reported to road, rail and air travel. Ferry crossings on the Irish Sea were affected, with some rescheduling taking place.

"There is, unfortunately, still some threat coming towards us," said chairman of the National Emergency Co-ordination Centre, Sean Hogan.

He said a combination of wind strength, a change in direction towards Galway and high waves in the Atlantic Ocean caused a surge of water into the city.

People along the south and west coast have been urged to stay away from coastlines until the windy weather passes.

The Government is to review its severe weather warning system after businesses in Galway were hit with unprecedented floods in a matter of minutes.

Major concerns have arisen about how Galway City Council dealt with the onset of flooding following Storm Eleanor, which destroyed businesses and homes and dozens of cars as storm waters surged through the city at tea-time on Tuesday.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy insisted suitable preparation and planning was in place in Galway, but forecasters and local authorities could not "predict everything that will happen".

"A particular confluence of events meant that Galway was very badly hit," he said. "It happened very, very quickly.

"But then the teams were on the ground, ready to respond from the local authority and they have been there working overnight."

A high tide advisory notice was issued by the Office of Public Works which covered the period from Tuesday morning until today, with local authorities advised to monitor storm surges and sea levels.

But Galway City Council said that given the wind direction, flooding was unlikely.

City chief executive Brendan McGrath defended the response, saying that all precautions possible were in place, but that the flooding was "unprecedented".

Mr Murphy said that improvements to the warning system would be put in place.

"There was adequate planning and preparation but every time we have an event like this we learn lessons," he said.

Debrief

"It's important that we do. So when we had Storm Ophelia, one of the first things we did that day was have a 'hot debrief' on the lessons learned from how events unfolded over the course of that day.

"Planning for this storm as well, Eleanor, and Dylan which we also had recently, are feeding into a piece of work that we're doing at the moment that I'll bring to Cabinet very shortly. It will be on lessons learned and how we can improve our warning systems into the future because we are going to have more storms. That is going to be a feature in terms of severe weather events."

Met Eireann's Evelyn Cusack said that despite scenes of devastation in Galway over the past 24 hours, Ireland has actually been relatively lucky that the situation hasn't been worse.

"We have had this very strong and vigorous Atlantic south-westerly over Christmas and part of the reason it is so vigorous is because there is Arctic air across north America.

"You might say what has that to do with Ireland, but that is enhancing our jet stream and is bringing the weather systems across the Atlantic.

"We have been very fortunate. While we have had some severe weather we have escaped the worse of it," she said.

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