Carrick-on-Shannon coping with second major flood in six years

Residents of Co Leitrim town want single agency set up to manage overflowing river

Shannon-on-Carrick, the joke was funny the first time around, but the humour has been replaced with more sombre reflection.

Carrick-on-Shannon has found itself besieged once again by the river which gives it its name.

This was not supposed to happen, at least not so soon after 2009. Then residents and businesses consoled themselves, believing such a flood would probably never reoccur again in living memory.

Then Met Éireann calculated the rainfall which fell in the month of November 2009 was a once in a 500-year event. "We were assured the last time, it was a once-off," says Frances Cryan, owner of Cryan's Hotel.

The hotel is across the road from the quays in Carrick-on-Shannon which are completely flooded and where one can see the top of a park bench protruding from the water.

Using sandbags

Six years ago, Cryan’s was closed by the floods, but it has managed to keep the water at bay this time using sandbags and a pump.

An elevated walkway over the floodwaters has kept visitors dry.

With Christmas coming the timing could not have been worse, but shop owners are fighting back. A commuter bus ferries shoppers in from local GAA stadium Páirc Séan Mac Diarmada. A video declares Carrick is open for business.

The flooding is not quite as bad as 2009, but it is bad in comparison with any other year. The main N4 into the town is flooded. So, too, is the car park at the back of the Bush Hotel and the Park Lane.

Carrick Indoor Karting, popular with stag and hen parties, has been shut since November 29th, depriving it of a last-minute flurry of parties before the end of the year.

"I put everything into this, not the banks," owner Nicky Davey says forlornly.

This time, the Carrick Cineplex, the only cinema in a 30km radius, has stayed dry this time, but it is still closed for business, because customers cannot make their way to it.

Swans have been gliding past the cinema car park in recent days. Until the swans leave and the cars come back again, the cinema cannot reopen, says owner, Liam Flood.

Flooding levels

Before building, he closely checked the Shannon’s flooding records going back to 1842: “We built it metres above what was the recommended flooding levels,” he says. Six years ago, the flooding caused hundreds of thousands of euro worth of damage and closed the cinema for five months. “The 2009 flood and, to a certain extent, what is happening now bucked all the trends,” he adds.

The people of Carrick-on-Shannon, Athlone, Limerick and all the other places affected by flooding might have to deal with a new reality which will mean frequent floods and heavier rain. The floods this year bring home the reality of global warming more than all the talking done at the COP21 summit in Paris, says Carrick area councillor Enda Stenson.

“I believe there is a solution, but it is going to take mega-money and maybe we don’t have the expertise to do it. We might need to call in the Dutch,” he says.

The agencies should start by managing the tributaries of the Shannon and cleaning up parts congested with vegetation which stymie the water flow. “The Shannon has got to be managed properly,” he says.

He recommends the setting up of one agency to manage the river from the source to the sea.

It is a view universally held among those who live close to its banks.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times