Surge in demand for generators in Cork during Ophelia

A Clonakilty hire and sales firm struggled with demand from worried farmers and families

Farmers with large herds were particularly worried, as in some cases their cows had not been milked in 24 hours. Photograph: iStock

Farmers with large herds were particularly worried, as in some cases their cows had not been milked in 24 hours. Photograph: iStock

 

The avalanche of calls to Sean Cowhig’s mobile phone began late on the Monday Storm Ophelia brought down powerlines and left three people dead across the country.

Rural families and farmers in west Cork, one of the worst-hit regions in the storm, were frantically looking for generators.

Mr Cowhig, owner of Clonakilty Hire & Sales, who would normally hire or sell around 10 generators a year, was left scrambling to find generators to power family kitchens and milking parlours.

Within two to three days, he said, he had either hired or sold 35 generators. “Normally you’d be lucky to sell 10 generators a year.”

Quickly recognising that demand was already outstripping supply, Mr Cowhig was at the door of his supplier’s premises in Cork city early on Tuesday morning as the mop-up following the worst storm in more than 50 years began.

Sean Cowhig
Sean Cowhig

He was extremely lucky, he said, to be able to get 10 new household-quality generators, five of which were immediately purchased by worried customers. The other five were hired equally quickly.

Turning to the North

His Cork city supplier, which normally held 240 generators in stock, was experiencing a similarly high demand, so Mr Cowhig, who received several hundred requests for generators, turned his attention to Northern Ireland. Here another supplier was able to give him 10 more of the machines – but the SOS calls kept on coming.

“We weren’t able to keep up with demand,” said Mr Cowhig. “We were able to provide a number of generators to the farming community, but we didn’t have a sufficient quantity of the larger generators which would be required by any modern milking parlour.”

He added that farmers with large herds were particularly worried, as in some cases their cows had not been milked in 24 hours. “I was very sorry to have to let so many people down – we simply didn’t have enough generators to meet the demand.

“On the domestic side, some people were very worried,” he said. “Their freezers were packed to capacity with food which they were afraid was going off and then you had people with disability, people who were ill, people who were worried about small babies.”

One of those without power for days after the storm was Padraig Keohane, who lives just outside the west Cork village of Rosscarbery. Mr Keohane, a former construction worker who is currently out on disability, ended up eating his meals in Nolan’s, a local bar, showering in the village’s Celtic Ross Hotel and driving to Clonakilty to do his washing in a launderette. But he was pragmatic about the situation: “There are many worse off than me,” he said.