Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Thousands hit by severe storm chaos

Stormy conditions have caused chaos across Ireland

Thousands have been left without power, roads have been ripped up and isolated homes have been cut-off from the mainland after storms ravaged the country.

As severe winds reached 120 kmph (75 mph) in some parts, 5,000 houses lost electricity and around 11,000 faults were reported to telecoms company Eircom.

County councils across the country spent the day calculating how much essential clean-up operations will cost, while the worst-hit areas in the west pledged to rebuild.

Loop Head peninsula in Co Clare was battered with high swells, which resulted in parts of the sea wall at Kilbaha being completely destroyed.

And flooding at Kilcredaun left some families completely cut-off from the mainland.

Further north in the county, snarling waves along the coastal town of Lahinch reached building height, while extensive damage was caused to the promenade.

Clare County manager Tom Coughlan pledged not just to repair the damage caused, but to rebuild with better facilities.

"We envisage such a development must be fit for purpose in terms of its capacity to deal with weather conditions such as those experienced in recent days while at the same time serving the needs of the local community and visitors to the town," Mr Coughlan said.

Pavements were reduced to rubble as floods ravaged the town.

Nearby Doolin was also hit, and as local Coast Guard volunteers tried to fight the devastation caused by the sea, their own stores at Doolin Harbour were washed out.

Elsewhere in Howth on the east, the Coast Guard revealed that two people were washed off their feet on parts of a pier while walking as waves were breaking over it.

Dare-devil surfers flocked to Mullaghmore Head in Co Sligo, where waves as high as 11.8m (38ft) were reported.

The Marine Institute recorded roaring waves of nearly 12m (39ft) on its M6 buoy on the Porcupine Bank off the north-west of Ireland

Waves of the same height were also recorded at its Waverider buoy off Belmullet, Co Mayo.

High tides also battered the coasts of Galway, Cork and Waterford, but despite a landslide at Plunkett Train Station in the latter last week, normal service resumed today.

Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork kept its gates closed, while high tide at Salthill, Co Galway flooded the Promenade.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) was forced to issue a warning of hazardous driving conditions, with the threat of strong cross winds, fallen trees and electrical wires.

It warned that continued high Atlantic waves, passing heavy showers and incoming thunderstorms would cause treacherous conditions and advised motorists to take extra care on the roads, where aquaplaning could cause them to lose control of their vehicle.

The RSA also urged drivers to steer clear of flooded roads, warning those that appear shallow could be much deeper.

"Sometimes roads can be closed due to their fragile state after wet weather or because they are blocked by flooding," it said in a statement.

"Road users should always follow recommended routes and obey signs closing roads to traffic. Watch out for washed out roads, earth slides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires, and fallen or falling objects."

Meanwhile, ESB Networks pledged to have electricity restored to the almost 5,000 homes that had lost power by teatime.

A spokeswoman said homes were worst hit in Castlebar in Co Mayo, Ennis in Co Clare, Killarney in Co Kerry, Bandon in Co Cork, while some faults were reported in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

Eircom listed Galway, Cork, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford as the worst affected areas for telecoms faults.

Elsewhere, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, which runs 72 of the country's lighthouses, said all its services and navigation aides were functioning normally despite some water damage to some buildings and outhouses.

"The service we provide for mariners, trade and shipping is functioning properly," a spokesman said.

A wall around a lighthouse on Inis Oirr on the Aran islands was knocked over by waves, while an old disused building was flooded. Water damage was also caused to a building at the Blacksod lighthouse in Mayo where the helipad was put out of action due to waves crashing over the sea wall.

A helicopter reconnaissance trip is expected to be planned for when weather conditions are suitable to check on possible structural damage to offshore lighthouses.

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