Teacher ‘baled car out with coffee cup’ after Galway floods

Sinead Barrett says council could use sirens to warn public to get away from rising waters

A teacher caught in “unprecedented” flooding in Galway city during the week has suggested that sirens could be used to warn the public to get out of the area before the waters rise.

Sinead Barrett, a primary school teacher based in Ennistymon, said she baled water out of her car "with a coffee cup" after driving "in a haze" away from the docks after the area flooded several feet deep on Tuesday.

Ms Barrett told The Irish Times she had stopped in Galway on her way back to Clare after celebrating the New Year at her home place on Achill Island.

“I’d heard the orange weather warning earlier but to be honest the whole weather warning has become a bit of a family joke with hyped up storms recently,” she said.


Ms Barrett parked on the docks, where there were also other cars parked, at about 3pm. She returned to the car at 4pm with her friend to collect her dog and update her parking ticket.

“It’s notorious for clamping,” she said. “The wind was picking up and I remember thinking what a miserable place Galway is in winter. We walked up to Eyre Square taking shelter from a bad shower on the way. Around 5.30pm I said goodbye to my friend and started walking back to the docks.”

‘Ankle deep’

Ms Barrett said she then found could not walk through the street she had come down earlier as it was “ankle deep” in water.

“I went back up Merchants Quay which was now filling with water. I saw a chap with shoes and socks off so I followed suit, with tights and boots in one hand, TK Maxx bag in the other and dog in tow.”

Ms Barrett cut through an over-ground car park to get to her 2001 Opel Astra, but found it “up to the lights in water”.

While she initially did not believe the car would start, she opened the driver’s door after the lights flashed. Water gushed out to meet her and continued to pour as she drove up the ramp of the car park.

The teacher said she was afraid to cut the engine in case the car would not start again.

“I was shaking now from adrenaline I guess. It took a bit of figuring to get out of the car park which was still filling with water.”

Ms Barrett “drove in a haze” until she got to a pub on Abbeygate Street.

“I wanted to go in , have a hot whiskey and charge my phone but I was wet through and afraid to stop the car. So I pulled in, baled out the water as best I could with a coffee cup till it fell apart.

She drove in bare feet with water up to her ankles all the way home to Ennistymon.

"On reflection I have to say that I think the reaction of the authorities was terrible. Why wasn't the Docks/Salthill area closed to traffic that afternoon?" Ms Barrett said.

“I know the tide was exceptionally high but surely full moon tide, plus storm winds and tide equals a flooding possibility?”

“There must be a better way to do it.”

‘Next one’

Ms Barrett suggested a “flood siren” in the city, similar to tsunami sirens used elsewhere, could assist in warning the public to get out earlier.

“These are all questions that need to be addressed before next flooding because there will be a next one.”

The National Emergency Co-ordination Group said last week that the Office of Public Works had informed all coastal local authorities at 11.46am on Tuesday of an extremely high spring tide.

Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely said at the time that Galway City Council had failed to act on the warning, and described the damage caused as "complete devastation".

However, the council’s chief executive Brendan McGrath said the situation was “unprecedented” and that nothing could have predicted the level of surge waters.