Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

High tide shuts coastal roads - but Belfast escapes flooding again

Volunteers give out sandbags at Inverary Community Centre in the Sydenham area.
Volunteers give out sandbags at Inverary Community Centre in the Sydenham area earlier this month

Northern Ireland's coast has been battered again by strong winds and large waves, causing flooding that forced police to close some roads.

The Ards Peninsula has been badly hit, with parts of Portaferry and Donaghadee swamped with water.

Ards DUP councillor Stephen McIlveen tweeted: "Portaferry Rd dangerous atm with waves from lough. Best to avoid. If you can't, please drive carefully."

Seafront promenades in Holywood and Newcastle have been shut.

In Antrim the A2 coast road through Carnlough village was closed, and a section of coast road between Drains Bay and Ballygally was closed, but is now opened and passable with caution.

Police have warned members of the public not to place themselves or others at risk and to avoid coastal paths and foreshore areas throughout the day, as the Met Office yellow warning of wind is in place until midnight.

In east Belfast, disaster was averted when the predicted tidal surge failed to breach defensive barriers of about 40,000 sandbags.

The high tide turned at 2.44pm on Monday, when residents and emergency services gathered beside Victoria Park in east Belfast to watch the water level rise at Connswater River.

But the major deluge that was feared did not occur and residents breathed a sigh of relief.

East Belfast MP Naomi Long expressed her thanks to all involved in the effort to prevent Sydenham flooding.

"Although the worst-case scenario did not happen today or last Friday, I know the work that was undertaken was a huge reassurance to residents during what was a stressful time," she said.

“As well as agencies such as the Fire and Rescue Service, Belfast City Council and Red Cross among others, particular praise must go to ACC Stephen Martin of the PSNI, who co-ordinated the efforts and had plans in place for every eventuality. It was a fantastic example of good co-ordination and inter-agency working for the benefit of everyone in the area."

Ms Long advised residents with sandbags not contaminated by floodwater to store them somewhere dry for future use, adding: "If this is not possible, they can spread the sand on their gardens or return the sandbags to a local recycling centre, where they can be dealt with."

There had also been fears that rising levels in the River Lagan could have lead to flooding in the city centre.

But the only sign of anything stirring on the waters came in the form of two curious seals who popped their heads up briefly as high tide came in.

US freeze blamed for our relentless storms

By Jack Brennan

It may be thousands of miles away, but the extreme weather currently hitting the US is having a significant impact on conditions this side of the Atlantic.

Three thousand miles away, in the skies above the eastern seaboard of North America, lies the explanation of why the British Isles has been battered by storm after storm.

Cities on the east coast of America have been hit by plummeting |temperatures with up to two feet of snow falling in Canada and the north-east of the US last week. The storm killed 16 people and thousands of flights have been cancelled across the country since Wednesday. Parts of the American Mid-West are also expecting temperatures to plunge as low as minus 50 degrees celsius.

The atrocious weather has also affected the US States of Connecticut and Massachusetts, with schools forced to close and transport systems thrown into chaos. Airplanes were grounded at JFK Airport in New York after one jet skidded off the runway.

Just south of New York City extremely cold air from the north and relatively warm air from the south are coming together to create instability in the weather, thereby fuelling a stronger than usual jet stream. And that is why the impact is being felt on this side of the Atlantic.

The jet stream can be compared to a fast-flowing torrent of high-altitude winds dragging the recent sequence of storms towards our shores. Its unusual ferocity has supplied a series of low-pressure systems that have deepened on their approach to Britain.

 Emma Compton, of the Met Office, said the conveyor-belt effect of the intense weather systems was also being intensified by a process of ‘positive feedback' — the power of the storms boosting the strength of the jet stream, and vice versa. “This means we get these storms clustering together, a stormy spell, then a respite, then another system coming through,” she said.

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