Saturday, November 21, 2009

November Rain - Floods in Cork and Lismore

This week has seen the worst flooding in years and possibly living memory in some parts of Ireland. I took some photos of the local flooding in Lismore and the overflowing River Blackwater. You can even see some daring Kayakers paddling about on the flooded Inches on the river floodplain.

There is more bad weather forecast for the weekend and storms later today and tomorrow. Whether this is down to climate change or not is moot, I don't think November Rain was a misnomer whether it's the song or the normal weather in Northern European countries. I always associate November with rain and wind and storms, as I do January. So we shouldn't get carried away by climate change alone, though I am sure that the increased flooding is due to man-made factors totally removed from environmental causes. Towns in Ireland like Clonmel have seen terrible flooding in recent years and it is solely attributable to building on floodplains leaving nowhere for the run-off that would normally result from the River Suir overflowing or bursting its banks - when there are houses and concrete all over what should be a floodplain that's the result.

I was in Cork on the day the flooding began - two days ago. Jany had her first booking ante-natal visit at the wonderful new Cork University Maternity Hospital and we drove up in filthy weather through lashing rain and gale-force winds. Walking from the car park to the hospital after dropping the parents-in-waiting off at the main door was a major challenge and one cheap tattered umbrella later I joined them soaked to the skin with drenched jeans and leaky shoes.

After three hours reading a book in the waiting area as the hospital banned partners due to swine flu fears we went across the road to Wilton Shopping Centre for lunch and hit Penneys, where I got fluffy socks and fake Uggs (Fuggs?) for a fiver and felt like a teenager but they were deliciously furry and warm and I am now sharing ownership with my 13 year old daughter who has already borrowed them! We then went to visit a friend in a suburb near the River Lee and found a number of access roads closed off due to flooding. We finally parked the car and splashed the last 200 metres to her house, and left within a half-hour as her daughter rang to say she was leaving the city centre as the Iniscarra Dam was being opened -controversially - to relieve the flooding upstream on the River Lee and Cork would be inundated when the tide peaked in about two hours. We were glad to get home safely as the M8 to Fermoy had awful cross-winds and surface water, and Fermoy is one of the worst towns in the country for flooding. The road from Fermoy was OK but the River Bride at Tallow had burst its banks and the floodplain was like a lake.

Lismore Canal after the deluge

Yesterday Lismore was cut off to the east - the N72 to Cappoquin was closed and I had to drive up the Vee Road towards the mountains to get to work - a major detour that doubled my 14 mile journey. I had the same detour home last night even though there was no rain yesterday, but the river rose all day as the tides came back and there were more roads flooded. Tallow, 5 miles west of Lismore, was closed off and kids couldn't get to school.

Today the weather was dry and tonight has already had a flash hailstorm which flooded our patio. The rest of the country is in bad shape with Cork's water supply cut off to 18,000 households due to possible contamination. The city has practically shut down - no tap water means the army have been drafted in to supply tankers of water for household needs and bottled water for drinking and cooking.

The River Blackwater in flood today

I went down to the river (unintended homage to Bruce there!) today with Jany to take some photos of the floods around Lismore and you can see some of the results here and a few video clips. The rest of the country is in much worse shape - Ballinasloe in Co. Galway has been hammered with the overflowing of the River Suck, and many other towns have been affected adversely.

So I guess we are just lucky here that we escaped the worst of the floods and the ensuing havoc - being delayed and diverted en route to work is a small price to pay compared to what many others are enduring and the misery they will have up to and beyond Christmas. We are very lucky - we have our family all safe and well and we will all be together for Christmas again this year, with the joyful prospect of out first grandchild in February - a real cause for celebration!

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