Residents along River Shannon braced for worst flooding since 2009
HOMEOWNERS and businesses are bracing themselves for “unstoppable” floods amid warnings that water levels in the River Shannon will continue to rise up to the weekend.
Met Éireann has issued a status yellow rainfall warning for Connacht, Donegal, Clare and Kerry, with up to 35mm of “additional rain” expected to fall up to midnight.
The Republic’s National Emergency Co-Ordination Centre has also warned that rising water levels along the Shannon are resulting in a high risk of flooding along the river from Athlone, Co Westmeath, right down to Limerick city.
In a warning to motorists, the group’s chair Sean Hogan said that “there is a real danger that the sides of roads may have collapsed."
"Our advice is fairly unambiguous - do not drive through floods.”
V windy & cloudy today with sctd outbreaks of rain, heavy in most places for a time. Highs 10 to 12 deg in strong to gale force SW winds.— Met Éireann (@MetEireann) December 9, 2015
A spokesperson for the Irish Army said that members of the defence forces have been deployed on flood defence operations in counties Clare, Limerick, Galway and Westmeath.
“Troops and transport assets remain on 'notice to move' to Co Donegal, Galway, Athlone, Limerick and Cork," they said.
"Defence Forces mobility, manpower and specialist engineer assets remain available to assist our communities if required by local authorities”.
Clare County Council last night confirmed it had officially requested the army's assistance in the Springfield area, saying: “Water levels rose dramatically on Tuesday evening in the Lower River Shannon south of Parteen Weir resulting in the encroachment of floodwaters on a small number of properties in Springfield.
"The Council anticipates that water levels will rise further during the day and is monitoring and evaluating the situation on an ongoing basis.”
District engineer Hugh McGrath told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that water levels had not yet peaked, adding that the council was preparing “for the possibility it could get a lot worse."
Limerick City and County Council this morning said it had received confirmation from the ESB that it would not increase its discharge of water from the Parteen Weir, but the local authority is warning that water levels along the lower Shannon at Montpelier, Castleconnell and the Mountshannon Road are continuing to rise and could “elevate further during the next few days”.
“Council staff, assisted by members of the defence forces, are continuing to implement flood defence measures along the river bank and coordinate with local property owners,” the council said.
It is also advising members of the public, particularly children, to avoid all flooded areas.
Soldiers have been helping fill and distribute sandbags in flood-prone parts of Co Westmeath with the ESB suggesting that water heights could reach 2009 levels by Saturday. Areas most at risk include Deer Park, Canal Banks, Parnell Square, Wolfe Tone Terrace, The Strand, Golden Island and Clonbonny in Athlone.
Local businessman Kieran Hynes, who makes aluminium and pvc windows, told Newstalk radio that sandbags and walls “will not be able to stop” the water if flooding is as extensive as it was six years ago.
Mr Hynes, who was out of business for six months after the 2009 floods, said: “The householders are the ones I feel really sorry for. They have been out since 6.30am this morning. They are trying to pump water away from the area around their homes but the look of shock and distress on their faces because they, like ourselves, have no insurance [because they live in a flood plain.”
In Galway, hundreds of homes across the county were without power this morning because of flood and wind damage to power lines.
Residents in a number of areas affected by flooding remain under a boil notice because of contamination to the water system because heavy rain has caused septic tanks to overflow.
The Irish Red Cross has set up emergency drinking water points in three areas along the River Shannon considered at high risk of further flooding, including Athlone, Portumna and Limerick.
The organisation said its efforts were being focussed on helping “isolated homes affected by drinking water loss, infirm householders or those with no transport”.