State ‘better prepared than ever’ to respond to extreme weather

Met Éireann forecaster says flooding ‘certainly the major risk’ in coming weeks

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Defence Simon Coveney at a meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Defence Simon Coveney at a meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

 

Government and State agencies are better prepared than ever before to respond to extreme weather events should they occur this winter, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has said.

Lessons had been learned from previous years when deep freezes created significant problems on the road network, he said, adding he believed the authorities and public were more ready than previously to react to flooding brought about by heavy rain.

Speaking after the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning met in Dublin yesterday, Mr Coveney said there had been very practical improvements in the co-ordination of the State’s response to weather.

These included maintaining salt reserves for treating icy roads, public transport firms having plans to keep disruption to a minimum when harsh conditions hit, and dealing with weather-related shortages such as fodder in the agriculture sector, he said.

Lessons learned

“There are some storms that no matter how you prepare you are going to incur significant damage, and the State has to invest in rebuilding that infrastructure and doing its best to protect that infrastructure where it can afford to do so.”

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said some 211,000 tonnes of salt could be accessed to treat roads, with the National Roads Authority saying this had cost some €1.8 million. In the winter of 2009/2010, when a lengthy cold snap created difficulties on the roads and a salt shortage, some 133,000 tonnes were required, with 140,000 tonnes the following year.

Representatives of agencies such as the Health Service Executive, Irish Water, the Garda and Met Éireann attended the meeting of the emergency planning task force yesterday. It coincided with the start of the annual “Winter Ready” information campaign which provides information on dealing with the elements through a booklet and website (winterready.ie).

Rainfall double

Gerald Fleming

“I would see mild, occasionally wet and occasionally very windy weather being the likely pattern we are going to have . . . Flooding is certainly the major risk I can see over the coming weeks,” he said, adding that eastern and southern areas were most at risk.

Asked if the State was seeing the consequences of climate change, Mr Coveney replied he believed so. “Government is and has to continue having conversations around the state of preparedness for climate change considerations and adaptation strategies as well as mitigation strategies,” he said.

Mr Fleming said climate change projections showed that “our weather is likely to become more extreme” with wetter winters and drier summers and “less of what we might call ‘normal’ weather”.