Risk of widespread flooding as Storm Frank approaches

Galway families leave homes as strong winds, rainfall and high tides expected

 Additional sandbags are placed around Ann Connolly’s house as flood waters rise at Ballinstague, Gort, on Monday. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Additional sandbags are placed around Ann Connolly’s house as flood waters rise at Ballinstague, Gort, on Monday. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

 

Areas along the Shannon and Lee rivers are braced for more flooding over the coming days with Storm Frank due to bring heavy rain and strong winds across the country.

In Galway, up to 30 families in the south of the county have been forced to leave their homes within the past two days due to the relentless rain since Christmas Day which engulfed minor roads, cutting off access.

None of the homes were flooded, but the homeowners were advised to leave and stay with relatives for safety reasons, according to Galway County Council director of services Liam Gavin.

Several families were offered accommodation in Gort by Galway County Council’s housing division.

Three houses in the village of Labane were”under pressure” on Monday, with no respite in sight due to a forecast for some 40 to 50 mm of rain overnight.

A diversion is in place on the N18 through Labane village, due to flooding on the main route.

Levels on the rivers Suck through Ballinasloe, Clare through Claregalway, Dunkellin through Craughwell are “on the edge”, he said, and the river Corrib is still “stubbornly high”.

Galway City Council and Garda plan to close the Promenade in Salthill from 12 noon until 8pm on Tuesday as a precaution.

Counties in the midlands and west are on high alert as Met Éireann issued status orange wind and rainfall warnings to coincide with the sixth Atlantic storm of the season, which is expected to be at its most severe over Tuesday and Wednesday.

Counties along the south and west coast can expect gusts of up to 120 km/h combined with high tides, with the potential for storm surges in coastal areas.

The Irish Coast Guard has urged caution among members of the public with treacherous sea conditions expected along all coasts into Wednesday. Vessels off the south and west coasts have been advised to seek shelter because of an ongoing storm warning.

The status orange wind warning covers counties Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Clare and Kerry, and forecaster Evelyn Cusack said rainfall alerts of the same severity will be issued with up to 7cm potentially falling in places.

Less serious yellow warnings will be in place for wind and rain in other parts of the midlands and for the east of the country from Tuesday, but concern has primarily centred around dwellings along the Shannon and Lee, the levels of which continue to rise.

Although rainfall of 9cm was registered in its upper catchment near Carrick-on-Shannon over the last 48 hours, the river Shannon has risen by up to 6cm in places such as Athlone over the corresponding period, and may peak at levels above those seen during Storm Desmond.

Localised flooding has already occurred in south Co Galway as a result of Monday’s status yellow rainfall warning, and train services between Galway and Limerick continue to be disrupted over flooding on the line.

ESB concern

Tributaries along the Shannon are also rising rapidly with an increase of almost 25cm recorded on the Brosna at Ferbane, Co Offaly, ahead of even heavier rain in days to come, and the ESB has expressed concern about the effects of heavy rainfall along the Lee in Cork which is already “bank full”.

Clare Country Council has issued a flood and storm warning for the entire county over the next 72 hours, and property owners in the region are again on edge after the ESB increased discharge rates from Parteen Weir to 405 cubic centimetres per second (cumecs) to ease water levels in Lough Derg.

The situation will be continually monitored as the storm front approaches over the coming days, and output from Inniscarra power station on the Lee has recently been upped to 180 cumecs which is equivalent to its highest level of discharge following Storm Desmond.

Motorists in Clare have been advised to avoid unnecessary travel late on Tuesday and during Wednesday after Storm Frank makes landfall, and gardaí have urged all road-users to exercise extreme caution amid the upcoming inclement conditions.

“It is a very vigorous Atlantic storm and it will throw up some very heavy rain and winds up to storm force across Ireland through Tuesday, and more heavy rain on Wednesday,” said Ms Cusack, who warned of “exceptionally high waves” along the Atlantic and south coast.