Storm Emma aftermath: threats to safety remain

This was a life-threatening situation that required considered advice and a coordinated response

A virtually deserted O’Connell Street in Dublin as heavy snowfall continued on Friday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

A virtually deserted O’Connell Street in Dublin as heavy snowfall continued on Friday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Following extreme temperatures and heavy snowfalls driven by gale force winds, the country may begin to think it is in a recovery phase. But the threats posed by this rare weather event have not gone away and it is vital that people should continue to follow the advice of the National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG) in red-alert areas.

Extensive business closures and advice to remain indoors generated a suggestion of official over-reaction. Not so

Because Ireland enjoys such a moderate climate dominated by Atlantic weather systems, people are unprepared for a Polar-related event like this that brings blizzards and freezing conditions. Spring temperatures normally range from 7 to 12 degrees but, for the coming days, that pattern may fall short by as much as 10 degrees in daylight. This will have a significant effect on young families, elderly people and household temperatures, particularly in areas where electricity supplies have been disrupted. Farmers and their livestock are also vulnerable.

Extensive business closures and advice to remain indoors generated a suggestion of official over-reaction. Not so. This was a life-threatening situation that people had little experience of and it required considered advice and a co-ordinated response. Despite that, some people undertook dangerous journeys and had to be rescued. The establishment of the NECG, to provide advance warning and advice on severe weather events, has been an important development that reduces financial loss and almost certainly saves lives.

Success has been based on good meteorological advice and on the hard work of official and voluntary bodies. Local authority workers, ESB crews, An Garda Síochána, Army members, road gritting and mountain rescue teams, among others, are to be commended. Hospital staff contributed mightily, while an outreach programme for people sleeping rough reflected the comprehensive nature of the response. As temperatures rise and winds moderate during the coming days, a risk of flooding may arise in some areas. But the most immediate threat to public safety involvessnow and icy conditions.

Great care is still required.

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