‘We were very lucky’: Relief as Cork city escapes heavy flooding

Dropping of gale force winds earlier than predicted lessened the storm surge in river Lee

Traders and home owners in Cork city centre are breathing a huge sigh of relief on Wednesday morning as high tide in the city passed off without flooding. Luckily, gale force winds dropped earlier than predicted and the city was spared a repeat of the devastation that it hit it just a month ago.

Cork City Council had issued a warning on Tuesday to business people and homeowners in the low-lying city centre to put up sandbags and other protective measures as Met Éireann forecast gale force eight winds coinciding with a high tide in the river Lee at 6.21am.

The council had warned that such a combination of high tide and strong winds, veering south east to south west, would lead to a storm surge in both the north and south channels of the river, which could lead to flooding of the South Mall and businesses along Oliver Plunkett Street and adjacent streets.

But Cork City Council director of operations David Joyce. who was in the city centre since 5am, explained that gale force winds dropped earlier than expected and had passed by the time high tide happened at 6.21am so the storm surge was less than predicted.


“We were very lucky – the change in the wind saved us – the gale force winds that Met Éireann had predicted would last until 7am dropped earlier so while there was a storm surge, it didn’t materialise at high tide so thankfully we didn’t have a repeat of the October flooding,” he said.

“The winds dropped between 4am and 5am, and while there was a storm surge with waters being driven up in the river by the wind, it happened earlier when the river was lower and by the time the tide was at its peak at 6.21am in the river, the surge had reduced.”

Mr Joyce said it had been predicted that the storm surge would reach between 0.5 and 0.75 metres but, because of the change in the wind, it never reached more than 0.35 metres.

“The high tide this morning topped out at 2.45 metres – that’s almost 400mm lower than the high tide on October 20th so that’s a difference of over a foot and that was key to the city centre escaping this morning, unlike in October when the storm surge sent water flooding into the city centre,” he said.

In October, the high tide came off Morrison's Island and Fr Mathew Quay on to the South Mall and down the side streets leading to Oliver Plunkett Street, which flooded badly as did Pembroke Street, Winthrop Street and Caroline Street with more than 20 businesses suffering flood damage, he said

“We did have some flooding this morning but it didn’t really get off Morrison’s Island – most of Morrison’s Island was flooded up to the level of the footpaths but it didn’t go down Fr Mathew Street and it didn’t get out on to South Mall or into Oliver Plunkett Street.

"We did have some localised flooding at the junction of Union Quay and South Terrace, and further up the south channel at Sharman Crawford Street and Wandesford Quay and at Lavitt's Quay on the north channel, where roads were down to one lane but they were passable."

Cork City Council had up to 100 staff from various departments on standby from 5am to assist with flood protection measures while Cork City Fire Brigade, Cork City Civil Defence and An Garda Síochána were also out in significant numbers to try and prevent serious flooding.

Cork City Council had also carried out a leaflet drop to some 500 premises in the city centre on Tuesday, alerting business people and home owners of the need to put up flood protection on Tuesday night to try while also telling them where they could collect sand bags and gel bags.

But Mr Joyce said: “Surprisingly, a lot of businesses didn’t protect their businesses with sandbags – I walked Oliver Plunkett St early this morning and at least one third of the buildings had nothing out, which was surprising given the amount of publicity we’ve done over the last couple of days.”

Meanwhile, Cork County Council had also issued a warning to property owners in coastal areas and in some towns to secure their property as the combination of high tides and strong winds was predicted to cause flooding in towns like Bantry, Clonakilty, Kinsale and Midleton in East Cork.

But the county also escaped any serious flooding incidents with high tide in Bantry causing some surface flooding in the Square in Bantry, but properties were not damage and the Square drained once high tide passed in the West Cork town.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times