Streets of Galway flooded as storm Eleanor arrives

ESB deals with 55,000 faults as gusts of up to 140km/h are reported off the west coast

The first storm of 2018, Eleanor, makes its presence felt on the west coast, leaving parts of Galway city flooded. Video: Diarmuid Naughton

 

Roads have been closed in parts of Galway city and Salthill due to flash flooding as the first storm of 2018, Eleanor, arrived on Tuesday evening.

The storm hit Galway before 6pm and Met Éireann said there were reports of winds gusting up to 140km/h off the west coast, leaving homes in Kerry and Mayo without power.

ESB Networks said approximately 55,000 customers were without power at 8.15pm on Tuesday evening, predominantly in counties Mayo, Leitrim, Sligo, Galway, Cavan and Monaghan.

It said it was responding to electricity outages where it was safe to do so. “Aiming to restore as many customers as possible tonight, they will deploy again before first light tomorrow. Further damage to the electricity network can be expected in north Leinster as the storm tracks east. Fallen trees on overhead lines are responsible for most of the damage to the network,” it said in a statement.

Met Éireann had issued a status orange wind warning for Munster, Leinster and Galway effective from 4pm to 10pm on Tuesday, one of several weather warnings put in place.

A status orange wind warning is currently in place for counties Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Limerick from 10pm Tuesday until 2pm on Wednesday.

An orange warning concerns weather events which have the capacity to impact significantly on people in the affected areas.

Met Éireann has also issued a status yellow wind warning for Leinster, Cavan, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary and Waterford between 4pm on Tuesday and 2pm on Wednesday. Wind speeds in these areas could reach up to 65km/h, with gusts of up to 110km/h.

A rainfall warning was also issued for Connacht and Donegal from 2pm until 9pm on Tuesday.

The forecaster said on Tuesday night that as the storm clears “it will remain extremely windy or stormy, with strong to gale force westerly winds and further severe/damaging gusts.

“A combination of high tides and exceptionally high seas will result in coastal damage and further flooding. Squally heavy downpours will occur too, with the risk of local surface flooding inland.”

The Northern Ireland Football League said three of its Tuesday night matches were “abandoned” due to adverse conditions and for health and safety considerations.

At 11pm on Tuesday, NIE Networks said that about 12,000 of its customers were without power as the storm hit the southern counties of Northern Ireland. It also reported that trees, branches and other flying debris had brought down power lines and poles.

Galway

Storm force winds and a high tide led to several roads in Galway city and Salthill being closed just as workers were trying to make their way home on Tuesday evening.

Coastal roads throughout the county were also impacted, with motorists encountering flooded roads in areas such as Oranmore, Maree and Clarinbridge.

Falling trees and debris on roads exacerbated the problem in Moycullen, Headford, Ballyglunin and Lackagh, as communities throughout Co Galway felt the full force of the storm.

Both gardaí and Galway City Council crews moved to close the promenade in Salthill, while car owners had been urged from early morning to move their vehicles from car parks that were likely to flood.

But the speed with which flash floods enveloped areas of the city, especially in the Docks area, still caught people by surprise.

The floodwaters quickly moved through the Spanish Arch, Quay Street, Merchant’s Road and Dominick Street, preventing pedestrians from getting home. Some homes on Fr Griffin Road in the city were also affected.

The usually busy exit route from the city centre along Lough Atalia became almost impassable because of floods and traffic chaos increased as drivers tried to turn back.

Many buildings, including that of Galway Fire Brigade, suffered flooding despite efforts earlier in the day to take preventative measures.

Several cars had to be abandoned in the Oranmore area after the high tide and wind combined to flood the area.

Many roads throughout the county became impassable while main routes out of the city to Oughterard, Headford, Tuam, Athenry and south Galway were treacherous with considerable surface water.

Mayo

Thousands of homes along the Mayo coastline were without electricity on Tuesday evening as Storm Eleanor raged.

The town of Westport lost power at about 5.40pm, as did the nearby coastal centres of Louisburgh and Newport.

More remote areas may have to wait until Wednesday or longer for a restoration of supply.

Residents of Westport reported a huge squall accompanied by violent gusts of wind just before the blackout. “The wind was screaming. I never saw trees moving so violently,” one motorist on the road between Westport and Kilmeena told a local reporter at about 6pm.

Many roads across Mayo are littered with tree branches and broken hedge foliage uprooted by the storm.

Serious flooding was seen on the Newport to Castlebar road and there were reports of motorists being stranded. Motorists are being urged to avoid the 10 mile-or-so stretch of roadway because of the flooding.

A fallen tree and a number of phone poles have toppled onto the road between Keelogues and Manulla near Castlebar and motorists have been advised of the dangers.

Seamus Murphy, Mayo chief fire officer, said his crews had been extraordinarily busy dealing with reports of fallen trees and flooding.

However, he outlined, no major emergency had been reported.

“The storm came on us very suddenly and then seemed to dissipate rapidly as well as it moved inland towards Roscommon and Leitrim,” Mr Murphy explained.

Cork

In Cork high tides in the River Lee led to some surface flooding in Cork city centre on Tuesday evening.

The South channel of the river Lee burst its banks at high tide at 5.30pm, leading to flooding at George’s Quay, Union Quay, Morrison’s Island and Sharman Crawford Street.

Some cars parked near the quays in Bantry had to be towed away after a high tide flooded them to a depth of one foot or more.

Similarly in Midleton in east Cork, there was some surface flooding on the Bailick Road at high tide but the road remained passable to traffic and no major incidents were reported to gardaí.

Cork County Council earlier warned householders to prepare for possible flooding. It said its severe weather assessment team met on Tuesday morning and response crews were on standby. “The entire Cork county area is subject to the level orange wind warning. Coastal flooding is also a possibility, with Bantry, Clonakilty and Bailick Road in Midleton identified as being at greatest risk.

“Residents and businesses in Bantry, Clonakilty and Midleton should take any necessary precautions in terms of sandbagging and moving stock to higher levels in the event of coastal flooding.”

The council said the strong winds may give rise to localised power outages and that in the event of disruption to power supply, people should contact ESB Networks at 1850-372999.

Meanwhile, gardaí have warned motorists in west Cork to drive with caution and to expect delays after high winds brought down a tree on the N71 between Bandon and Clonakilty on Tuesday afternoon.

Kerry

Strong winds have already brought down a power line on the Iveragh Peninsula in Co Kerry, with several houses left without power after a line came down between Ballinskelligs and An Gleann.

A number of roads near Tralee have suffered heavy flooding and some are impassable. The road is impassable at Blennerville and there is heavy flooding at Prince’s Quay in the town centre.

Kerry County Council management met on Tuesday morning and said afterwards it was anticipated the worst of the storm would affect Kerry from 4pm to 7pm approximately. Members of the public were advised to exercise care during this period.

If a member of the public requires the assistance of Kerry County Council, they can contact the emergency contact line on 066-7183588, a spokesman said.

Sligo and Leitrim

Motorists were on high alert throughout the northwest as fallen trees and debris left many roads impassable on Tuesday evening

Thousands of homes were left without power as Storm Eleanor raged, with Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim particularly badly affected.

The ESB was hoping to restore power there by 10pm, while emergency crews were also battling to repair lines in other badly affected parts of the county such as Carrigallen, where hundreds of homes had no electricity on Tuesday evening.

Pockets around Mohill, Dromod, and Arigna were also affected.

In Sligo town a Bus Éireann bus had to be evacuated as flood waters rose quickly. Gibraltar Road in the town was closed due to flooding .

Fallen trees created hazards on several roads. A tree was down on the N17 between Tubbercurry and Curry but the road was passable.

A number of trees had been cleared by Tuesday evening, including on the N59 Sligo-Ballina road at Beltra and on the Ballymote to Boyle road at Keash.

But many roads remained impassable and people were being urged to stay indoors and not to travel if possible. Fallen trees were also blocking the Boyle to Gurteen road at Cloonloo and the Riverstown to Drumfin road at Coopers Hill.

In Co Leitrim a fallen tree blocked a road at Hartley Bridge outside Carrick-on-Shannon.

Sligo County Council earlier warned motorists not to leave cars in low-lying or coastal car parks because of the risk of serious flooding from early on Wednesday.

The council has warned that high tides are due at 6.15am and 5.45pm on Wednesday, when the risk of flooding will be greatest.

Motorists have been urged not to leave cars in vulnerable locations such as the Lower Quay Street carpark in Sligo town, beside the shore in Strandhill or at the public car-park at Enniscrone cliffs.

The local authority has also warned that roads may be closed at short notice and diversions put in place.

Clare

Clare County Council has warned members of the public to avoid exposed coastal locations from Tuesday evening through to Wednesday morning.

Tom Tiernan, senior engineer at Clare County Council, said “we are advising the public not to venture out unless necessary, particularly in coastal areas”.

“Motorists are asked to be careful when driving and to avoid parking vehicles in close proximity to exposed coastal areas,” he said.

“Any coastal areas which have previously flooded are at risk and people in such situations are advised to take appropriate precautions.”

Strong winds

Earlier on Tuesday, Met Éireann said Storm Eleanor would move in off the Atlantic during Tuesday afternoon and “move very quickly across the country this evening”.

“It is a very narrow core of very, very strong and very damaging winds,” forecaster Evelyn Cusack said. “In addition we have heavy rain; we have sleet and snow being reported in northern areas.”

She said there would be a continuing high risk of flooding spreading from Co Kerry up to Co Donegal, aggravated by high seas and high tides which are expected again about 5am on Wednesday.

Storm force winds overnight on the west coast would drive in exceptionally high seas, she added. “And there will be coastal flooding and damage and debris and under no circumstances should people go near the coast tonight or tomorrow morning,” she said.

Conditions meanwhile will remain very unsettled for the rest of the week. It is forecast to get very windy again in southern parts on Thursday morning, with rain spreading up across the country.

Advice for motorists

An Garda Síochána has advised motorists to drive with care and reduce speed if necessary.

The AA said drivers should allow extra journey time and warned there are likely to be some delays as a result of the weather conditions.

“In particular drivers need to exercise caution when driving on motorways as sudden gusts of wind can make what are normally Ireland’s safest roads very hazardous,” a spokesman for the AA said.

“Strong gusts of wind combined with heavy rain and road spray from other vehicles severely reduces driver visibility and also impacts on the driver’s ability to maintain control of the car.”

Power outages

ESB Networks said those who lose power are advised to visit powercheck.ie.

It warned people that if they come across fallen wires or damaged electricity networks to never ever touch or approach these as they are live and extremely dangerous. Any damage to electricity infrastructure can be reported by calling 1850-372999.

“We are experiencing a large volume of calls at present so we are asking customers to use our automated system on our 1850 number to get updates on estimated restoration times. Customers should have their MPRN available to access recorded information specific to their location,” it said.

The Irish Coast Guard has advised the public to stay away from exposed beaches, cliffs, piers and promenades during storm conditions.

Severe weather fund

Meanwhile, Eoghan Murphy, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, said the Government must establish a standing fund to deal with severe weather incidents, such as storms and floods.

The Government has allocated funding to local councils for such purposes on an ad-hoc basis since 2009, with €17 million allocated in total for the winter of 2015/2016.

Three recent events – Storm Ophelia, as well as flooding in Inishowen and Mountmellick – cost a combined €9 million. Mr Murphy’s department says that funding for these areas comes from savings in other areas but the Minister says a more structured approach is needed.

“Due to the nature of these events, costs could generally be met on an ad-hoc basis. But these severe events are becoming less exceptional, and a standing fund is now needed to guarantee to local authorities that expenses incurred in protecting homes, businesses and infrastructure will be covered – so that they can provide the most effective response, both before and after such an event,” he said.

He will speak to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe about the “creation of a designated contingency fund to place this support on a secure footing for the future”.

On Tuesday night, Dublin Fire Brigade and gardaí closed a section of Lansdowne Road due to safety concerns over a crane and high wind. The move is understood to have been precautionary.