| 12.8°C Dublin

Whether it's the big freeze or downpour, our city falls apart

HEAVY rain in Ireland? Who could have possibly predicted such a thing?

If there's one thing this country should be expert at it's dealing with precipitation. We get enough of it.

And yet, once more, a single weather event brought our capital to a standstill.

This was deja vu for Dubliners. We have been here before, and more than once.

Last Christmas the Big Freeze paralysed the city, just as the original Big Freeze did in December 2009.

Just five months before that -- in July 2009 -- Dublin was again effectively shut down after heavy rains.

On that occasion a hospital roof collapsed and people had to be rescued from inner-city apartments.

So we can't say we haven't had plenty of recent experience when it comes to heavy weather.

Why, then, can't we get it right?

Why does a sustained period of rain lead to post-apocalyptic scenes, with cars abandoned on city streets, trains stopped and power-outs across the city?

From start to finish serious questions need to be answered about the lack of warning given to householders and commuters about the deluge, and the way the floods were handled.

Met Eireann's predictions of "localised flooding" and "heavy rain" seemed almost quaint in light of the the Biblical scenes that unfolded all over the city.

On Sunday night it must have been apparent to forecasters that a month's rainfall was headed for Dublin.

But Met Eireann's warning lacked the necessary urgency -- otherwise commuters would have left offices earlier, householders would have erected sandbags, the city's drains would have been cleared.



PREDICTABLE



Instead we had the all-too-predictable scenes of sodden workers abandoning buses and staggering home through the rain, and distraught home and business owners desperately trying to bail out their properties.

It's one thing not to have seen the deluge coming, but the way it was dealt with by the city's councils was lamentable.

The heads of emergency services held a crisis meeting late last night -- a bit late for the tens of thousands of people whose commute, car or home were ruined.

The fact that the country's busiest road -- the M50 -- was closed for a period tells you all you need to know about how prepared the authorities were.



STANDSTILL



Commuters travelling south on the M1 at 9pm had clear driving all the way from Newry until they reached the outskirts of Dublin.

Despite the motorway's proximity to Dublin Airport, traffic was at a virtual standstill from that point on.

Not that it mattered, really, because 20 flights had been diverted from Dublin to Shannon Airport in any case.

With traffic grinding to a halt the city's streets and suburbs flooded as it became apparent that basic flood prevention tactics -- such as clearing drains and manholes of Autumn leaves -- had not been carried out.

Artane, Islandbridge, Ringsend, Crumlin, Cabra -- in areas all over the city the flood waters rose.

Individual council workers on the ground did their best, but they were clearly overwhelmed by the scale of the flooding.

The emergency plan saw the Army ready -- but the capable soldiers were placed "on standby" and not generally deployed. Just like we saw in the Big Freeze last year, they were not widely deployed where they were needed most.

Instead householders in Donnycarney, Artane, Ballsbridge and other suburbs battled to save their homes against mounting flood waters.



BILL



As the rain subsides the clean-up now begins. Dundrum Shopping Centre lies under feet of water, the country's premier shopping centre closed down. The Courts of Criminal Justice have also been shut for the day. The clean-up is beginning in hundreds of city homes.

The repair bill will no doubt be in the millions and home and business owners will have to foot most of it.

But when it comes to footing some of the blame it might be harder to find a culprit.