Met Éireann defends timings of warnings given over Storm Elsa

‘Weather is weather,’ says spokeswoman after Galway hit by flooding and fallen trees

Scenes of flooding close to the Galway Atlantaquaria in the Salthill parking lot, and fallen trees blocking the Ballymoneen Road in Knocknacarra. Video: @PicDiaryGalway/Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Met Éireann has defended the one-hour warning upgrading storm Elsa from yellow to orange level in Mayo and Galway. The storm caused flooding on the west coast on Wednesday night, swamping up to 50 cars in Galway city and forcing a ship onto rocks.

A spokeswoman said the guidance it used was uncertain right up to the last hour. “Weather forecasting is not an exact science – there is a lot of uncertainty in it,” she said.

Local councillors said the short notice prevented Galway City Council closing the promenade and aquarium car parks.

Met Éireann said the yellow warning that was issued countrywide also included an orange marine warning, which was issued on Tuesday evening, 24 hours before the storm hit.

The nature of weather forecasting is that it is never certain. All we can do is issue the warning we see fit

“The guidance we were using didn’t capture its level and it was a critical event. We got the warning out when we could with the data available to us,” the spokeswoman said.

Tweets

‘No control’

“Unfortunately, weather is weather and we have no control over it. We do the best with what we have.

“The nature of weather forecasting is that it is never certain. All we can do is issue the warning we see fit. We did issue a sea area warning which said there would be storm-force winds offshore and, as we all know, weather doesn’t stop at the coast. Sea warnings include the bays too. This should be considered when looking at the forecast.”

Among the forecasters’ critics were the harbourmaster of the Port of Galway Capt Brian Sheridan, the city’s mayor, Mike Cubbard, and local area councillors in west Galway.

On Wednesday night, Met Éireann issued a status orange wind warning for Galway and Mayo at 8pm, valid from 9pm.

Galway West councillor Donal Lyons said the storm had already hit Salthill, combining with high tide and an Atlantic surge that flooded the promenade, aquarium car parks and some properties . He said Met Éireann had “questions to answer” .

Timely advice

Mr Lyons said motorists had parked their cars and gone to a local cinema, while the council had not got the opportunity to deliver timely advice to people to stay indoors.

People will blame local authorities but we are dependent on Met Éireann

Capt Sheridan said he was furious at the lack of warning after a cargo ship making deliveries to the Aran islands was thrown up on rock armour when it broke one of its moorings. The 39-metre Saoirse na Mara sustained considerable damage during the height of the winds at about 8pm.

Galway city mayor Mike Cubbard said Galway was well prepared for floods but needed a warning to put barriers in place. He said a lot of buildings in the docks area could have been protected. “People will blame local authorities but we are dependent on Met Éireann.”