Flood risk remains... and Monday's tidal surge could be worse, say PSNI
The risk of serious flooding remains a threat to homes near Northern Ireland's coastline, say police.
Fears strong wind and high tides would cause damaging floods in Belfast on Friday proved unfounded as the tide peaked without breaching the defenses that had been put in place.
But Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin has warned that the extreme weather is not over - urging the public to remain "on high alert" over the coming three days.
"Over the past few hours we have experienced extreme tidal surges in many coastal areas across Northern Ireland," he said.
"In preparing for these types of events we must plan for the worst but thankfully, on this occasion, our defences held in most areas.
"Unfortunately we're not over this extreme weather yet. We are anticipating another higher than usual high tide around midday on Sunday and Monday afternoon's high tide has the potential again to cause widespread flooding."
Coastal towns and villages were battered by the gales and floods on Friday.
In Holywood the esplanade was submerged under water, as residents nervously watched the tide creep towards their homes.
The high tide was evident at Carrickfergus Harbour and Belfast's docks area, where Corporation Street was shut and businesses were evacuated.
Boulders washed from the sea onto the road at Dalriada Park in Cushendall, while Carnlough came to a standstill after thousands of coast stones were flung on to the main road of the village.
The blustery showers are set to continue on Friday night, followed by some frost.
Snow is forecast for higher ground on Saturday afternoon, with rain and sleet elsewhere.
ACC Martin said the PSNI would continue to coordinate the operation to prevent serious flooding.
"We will remain on high alert over the coming days and we would urge the public to do the same. We would ask people to continue avoiding coastal paths and to drive with extreme caution over the next few days," he said.
"We would advise people to retain their sandbags for potential use again on Sunday and Monday.
"Weather forecasting is subject to continual change and we will continue to work with our partner agencies and engage with local communities and the media as we get a clearer indication of the coming weather patterns.
Much of the effort to reinforce water defences in Belfast on Friday was focused in the docks area, with a number of roads closed to traffic as the tide peaked at 12.10pm.
On Thursday night residents of Sydenham in east Belfast were told to pack a bag and prepare for potential evacuation.
Sandbags were distributed to the public through the night while the authorities built up river defences, which the tide did not breach.
The risk of flooding was also downgraded for the waterside Victoria Square shopping centre, where the underground car park was closed.
The charity Age NI has urged people to care for their elderly relatives and neighbours in the extreme weather.
Linda Robinson, acting chief executive, said: "‘Poor weather conditions can have a very serious impact on older people, preventing some from getting in and out of their homes or causing worry about a trip or a fall.
"Even visiting the local shop to make sure there’s enough food in the house can be difficult. Add to that the possibility of electricity failure, water damage or problems with home-heating and it’s clear why many older people struggle.
"Just a phone call or a visit can be enough to make sure that an older person you know has everything they need to stay safe and well."
* Inverary Community Centre in Sydenham will reopen on Saturday from 10am to 4pm for collection of sandbags. Residents with any queries should contact 0800 7076965 between 10am and 2pm. Similar arrangements will be in place on Sunday.
Flooding chaos causes millions of euro worth of damage in Republic
Clare County Council will spend €50,000 on a preliminary clean-up in Lahinch after the small tourist village was battered by the storm.
Seawalls and footpaths were broken by the sheer force of rushing seawater. It is estimated that millions of euro worth of damage has been caused in total.
High tides and gale force winds resulted in hundreds of thousands of euro worth of damage to homes and businesses in west Galway, Mayo, Cork and Donegal.
A major clean-up operation is underway in the western areas after high tides caused extensive flooding this morning.
Homes and businesses in Dublin city escaped damage, when the River Liffery rose to the highest tide of record.
The river burst its banks near Guinness Storehouse and Heuston Station this afternoon. Wolfe Tone and Victoria quays were closed for an hour but they were reopened as council staff pumped the floodwater off the roads.
The East Link Bridge was closed for a number of hours this afternoon, but it is now back open. The Strand Road in Sandymount also reopened following high tide.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said all roads and quays were reopened by 2.15pm today.
The worst-hit areas in the city at high tide were Sandymount and Victoria Quay, a council spokesperson said. Traffic has now cleared in the city and should be moving like most Friday afternoons.
Dublin City Council will issue the next precautionary alert on Sunday, but it said the tide will not be as high as today.
In South Dublin, Vico Road in Dalkey is closed because power lines are down.
Donaghmede was also at a standstill as high tide seawater flooded coastal roads.
The coast road and station roads in Malahide were also closed this evening.
AA Roadwatch said traffic began to clear around the county earlier this evening, after spates of heavy standstills this morning.
Up to 600 homes are still without power this evening, but ESB said they will have power restored by tonight.
The worst affected area was west Wicklow where a number of homes and businesses are without power following a lightning storm.
Meanwhile, businesses along the seafront in Clontarf, one of the worst-hit areas by the storm in the capital, breathed a collective sigh of relief today as rising flood waters stopped just metres from shop fronts.
There had been fears the high tide at 12.30pm would cause serious flooding to the shops and homes on the Clontarf Rd where the promenade walkway had flooded yesterday for the first time since 2004.
In preparation, a ring of sandbags had been installed by Dublin City Council around the worst hit part of the promenade and sabdbags had also been made available to homes and businesses.
By high tide a huge stretch of the promenade had been entirely flooded with the incoming tide filling gullies resulting in partial flooding of the road.
But the flood waters soon receded leaving premises unscathed.
Salthill in Galway was hit badly by rising waters, along with parts of Mayo suffering extensive damage.
Shops and restaurants facing the Spanish Arch in Galway city tried to prepare with sandbags and flood defences but this could not hold the surge of water back.
The promenade in Salthill was closed today as council crews worked to remove some of the debris washed ashore. Rocks, stones and seaweed were strewn along the popular walking spot in the storm.
Some businesses along the promenade experienced damage. Leisureland will remain closed for a number of days, following damage to the gym and pool.
Parts of Cork city were hit by floods from the River Lee. A number of homes were evacuated.
Today, floods hit low-lying areas of the city including Morrissons Quay, Fr Mathew Quay, Sharman-Crawford Street and Union Quay but did not reach the levels which caused chaos last night.
Floods also caused misery in county towns including Midleton, Youghal, Clonakilty, Cobh, Kinsale, Carrigaline, Bandon, Fermoy and Mallow.
Cork City Council has issued a flood alert for tomorrow and Sunday at high tides.
A family was evacuated from a house in Westport Co. Mayo after extensive flooding in the area.
Part of a bridge in Rosmoney was washed away and gardai diverted traffic from the area.
Businesses and a number of homes in the main street in Foynes in Co. Limerick were also damaged because of tidal flooding from the Shannon Estuary.
Council staff pumped water from affected areas in Limerick and they deployed sandbags in advance of further bad weather tonight.
A clean-up operation is underway but there are fears of further damage with more high tides forecast for later this evening.
Galway City Council issued a warning regarding potential flooding during high tides between now and the end of the week.
These high tides will hit tomorrow at 6.48am and 7.18pm, and Sunday at 7.36am.
As storms batter Britain, doubts raised whether Environment Agency can cope following cuts
Antony Frampton and his colleagues at the Environment Agency have rebuilt the mile-long shingle sea defence of Weymouth beach esplanade every day during the stormy weather over the past fortnight, with the exception of Christmas Day.
The team was hard at work again today, as The Independent visited the Dorset town that is currently taking a hammering.
“The sea defence gets eroded overnight and so we rebuild it the next day,” said Mr Frampton, before hopping into one of several Environment Agency diggers along the front and once again rebuilding the shingle wall that had been demolished the previous evening by the powerful gales and onslaught of heavy rain.
“We want to keep the shingle at a certain width so waves don’t go over the wall and close the beach road,” he said – although the road had been forced to close earlier that morning after flooding, and was due to close again last night as a precaution against the expected storm surge.
There is little hint of an end to such problems until at least Monday, with severe weather warnings expected to remain in place for the entire southern coast throughout the weekend. Bursts of 30mm of rain could fall on higher ground today, while in northern parts of the country snow could add to the misery.
Walking around Weymouth, locals said they had been battered by a series of torrential downpours in recent days, causing the river to burst its banks on several occasions and flooding parts of the inner dock area around the town bridge.
“I haven’t seen it this bad in the last 10 years,” said Barry Pitman, another Environment Agency worker stationed on the esplanade.
But the gale force winds and torrential rain weren’t bad for everyone.
“When it says on the TV there’s going to be a storm and to keep away, we flock to the beach,” said Steve Howlett, who was enjoying a spot on windsurfing with his friend Simon White.
“I went into work this morning, but I managed to get the afternoon off,” added Mr Howlett, who works for the helicopter maker AugustaWestland.
“It has been phenomenal all over Christmas – mild and stormy. The wind is past storm force and my arms have grown a little bit longer,” said Mr White, a retired helicopter pilot for the Army Air Corps.
The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has called on Britain to remain vigilant over the weekend, following his second emergency meeting to discuss the storms in as many days.
“Severe weather combined with high tides and strong winds has led to some localised flooding today. With more rain and strong winds expected later today and over the weekend I urge everyone to follow the advice from the Environment Agency and police and to take every possible precaution,” he said.
The agency has issued nine severe flood warnings – where lives could be at risk, in the South-west, Wales and the Midlands. A further 116 flooding warnings and 219 flood alerts have been issued.
The weather continued to wreak havoc across large parts of the country yesterday. The rivers Stour in Dorset and Severn in Gloucestershire burst their banks, while Scotland was last night bracing itself for wind speeds of up to 80mph as storm surges moved north.
Looe in Cornwall, Ilfracombe, Barnstable and Plymouth in Devon and Caernarfon in Wales were among the towns which found themselves partially submerged, while Yalding in Kent also suffered.
Roads were closed, train services disrupted and ferry sailings from Plymouth to Roscoff, France, and Portsmouth to Santander in Spain were cancelled.
In Ireland, about 6,000 homes along the west coast found themselves without electricity as Galway suffered the worst flooding and parts of Cork had to be evacuated.
And in Wales, sightseers out early along the coast to witness the dramatic weather scenes had to be ordered away by the police for putting their lives at risk.
The coastal town of Burry Port, south-west Wales, was lashed by huge waves of more than 70mph during yesterday morning’s high tide.
“People were turning up by the car load at East Beach and Burry Port Harbour and walking along the harbour wall,” said council spokesman Ron Cant.
David Cameron tweeted that he was “ensuring all is being done to help with the floods”. But the Government came in for criticism for its decision to fire about 15 per cent of those Environment Agency staff responsible for dealing with flooding.
“On the same day that the Environment Agency chief executive said that it’s inevitable that cuts will impact their ability to deal with flooding, Owen Paterson’s bizarre claim that these front-line services will be protected will ring hollow for all those affected by the flooding,” said Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole.
“The Environment Agency says investments in flood defences must increase to keep pace with climate change – yet the Coalition has seen a real-terms cut in spending on them,” he added.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs said: “We’re spending over £2.3bn on tackling the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. Together with contributions from other partners, this is more money than ever before.”
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