Retail group critical of Met Éireann over ‘alarmist’ warning

Forecaster rejects claims, says it has no control over people’s reactions to information

‘The function of Met Éireann is to provide advice on weather conditions and forecasts. What people do with that information is up to them.’ File Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

‘The function of Met Éireann is to provide advice on weather conditions and forecasts. What people do with that information is up to them.’ File Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Ireland’s largest retail representative body has criticised Met Éireann for issuing an “alarmist” nationwide weather warning that it claims negatively impacted on Christmas shopping.

Last Friday, Met Éireann issued a nationwide Status Orange weather warning until 10pm on Saturday evening in anticipation of Storm Deirdre, which brought heavy rain and winds of up to 130 km/h in some parts of the country.

Retail Excellence, the organisation representing s nearly 2,000 Irish retailers, claimed the warning had led to a drop in footfall and consumer activity.

“We believe Met Éireann need to be a little bit more forensic about pushing the button on these warnings because in many parts of the country at the weekend, there was a little bit of rain and little bit of wind and, to most, it was a normal winter’s day in Ireland, ” said chief executive David Fitzsimons.

“I know there was a bit of flooding in Enniscorthy and I know that Wicklow had some high winds, but to issue a nationwide warning when all of the country is not impacted to the same severity is misleading and damaging to our industry.”

In response, a spokesman for Met Éireann said: “The function of Met Éireann is to provide advice on weather conditions and forecasts. What people do with that information is up to them.

“The coloured warning system was rolled out in 2013 to alert the public to the predicted severity of weather conditions. Our warnings are threshold-based and when the conditions are expected to reach a certain criteria a warning is issued.”

Normal

The spokesman rejected the claim that Saturday was a “normal” winter’s day.

“Deirdre brought wet and windy weather. Some southern areas had 50 to 60mm of rain - the equivalent of one to two weeks of rain in a single day and brought flooding to some parts.”

Other business groups and retailers said sales were down last weekend compared to the same period in previous years but did not place any blame on Met Éireann.

Sarah Foley, a spokeswoman for the Cork Chamber of Commerce, said the city experienced the “weather at its worst” on Friday and Saturday.

“As with any bad weather occasion, people do tend to stay away from the city centre. It is unfortunate that it happened on one of the main Christmas shopping weekends when it is obviously a key month for retailers,” she said.

“It’s only a year since weather warnings were not adhered to and unfortunately two people lost their lives because of venturing out in storms so you have to bear in mind that people’s safety comes before everything else,” Ms Foley said.

Dave Hickey, the president of the Galway Chamber of Commerce said that shops in the city were not as busy as usual last weekend as a result of “weather forecasts rather than the actual weather”. However, he acknowledged that “taking cognisance of the impact on business is outside the scope of what Met Éireann is there to do”.

A manager of a popular retail chainstore on Grafton Street in Dublin also said the shop “definitely” saw a drop in sales on Saturday in comparison to last year. However, he said he “wouldn’t necessarily blame Met Éireann” as shoppers can “take what they want” from weather forecasts.