Met Éireann on Thursday night has issued a status yellow rainfall warning for Counties Cork and Kerry, cautioning that 25mm to 35mm of rain should be expected between 9am on Friday and 9am on Saturday morning.
Hundreds of homes and businesses throughout the country have been left flooded following what has been the wettest December on record, according to Met Éireann.
The forecaster has revealed that rainfall amounts arising from winter storms such as Desmond and Frank, have smashed half century records around the country.
Cork alone has experienced three times its average rainfall for the last month.
The latest estimates showed about 160 homes have been inundated over recent weeks, 100 of which were flooded following Storm Frank.
Authorities are said to be “very concerned” about the situation in Athlone given continually rising river levels and further heavy rain expected this weekend.
Following a 7cm increase over the last 48 hours, the Shannon in Athlone is now 10cm above its previous peak recorded after Storm Desmond.
There has been an 11cm rise in Limerick city over the same period, and a 9cm rise upstream at Lough Derg with significant increases in water levels noted in the Bandon, Erne, Slaney, Suir and Boyne rivers.
“We remain very concerned in relation to the Shannon at Athlone. The Shannon is now, we believe, 5cm off the 2009 level, and clearly if further increases continue the efforts that are ongoing there will have to continue,” Brendan McGrath of the National Co-ordinating Group said at a briefing today.
A dry and frosty spell this evening will give way to further bouts of heavy rain late on Friday, Saturday and into Sunday according to forecaster Gerald Fleming, who gave a detailed outline of the extraordinary rainfall amounts in the as-yet incomplete figures for December.
Dublin Airport saw 193mm of rain compared to its December average of 73, one station in Sligo recorded well over twice its comparable average of 126mm, and the Valentia station in Kerry had its wettest December since opening 76 years ago.
“I suppose it gives some context of what we’re living through in terms of the unusual nature of the weather, on top of a November which was itself wet although not quite so exceptionally wet as December has been,” he said.
Flood waters have subsided in some areas such as Bandon and Mallow towns, and relief programmes are continuing with 130 households receiving assistance from the Government’s Humanitarian Assistance Scheme and a similar amount of businesses seeking grants from the Red Cross.
Helen Faughnan from the Department of Social Protection said applications from flooded householders are expected to "ramp up" after the latest severe weather events, and that the average sum handed out so far has been €1,000.
The majority of applications to its Humanitarian Assistance Scheme have come from Mayo and Galway, and emergency centres which facilitate access to essentials such as food, clean water and clothing have now been opened in Athlone, Gort, Carrick-on-Suir and at various locations in Kilkenny and Wexford.
Irish Red Cross secretary general Liam O’Dwyer indicated that it is difficult to say whether the initial €5 million set aside by the Government for a flood relief scheme for traders will be adequate.
Some €300,000 has already been handed out, but this constitutes the smaller grants of under €5,000 handed out prior to Christmas, and around 40 per cent of applications remain outstanding heading into the new year.
More than 150 members of the Defence Forces have continued their deployment across Cork, Kilkenny and south Galway as well as the flood affected towns of Clonlara, Carrick-on-Suir and Athlone, and the Air Corps has been engaged in airdropping fodder to stranded farmers in south Galway.
An ESB spokeswoman said almost 3,000 people were without power on Thursday morning.
“They won’t be able to restore power until the flooding recedes. We can’t restore power to a flooded premises,” she said.
There were about 1,700 households without power across the country overnight due to flooding with the worst affected areas being Macroom, Enniscorthy, Bandon, and Arklow.
A large fault on Thursday morning left 1,200 homes and businesses with no electricity in Fermoy, Co Cork. It is expected to be restored later on Thursday.
In total, about 130,000 ESB customers have had their power restored since December 27th, a spokeswoman told The Irish Times.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to chair a meeting of all State agencies involved in dealing with the emergency weather situation in Government Buildings tomorrow. Mr Kenny has been criticised for his handling of the crisis.