Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland weather: Prepare for another two fierce weeks of battering

BY LINDA STEWART

The wet weather causing misery across Northern Ireland is set to last for weeks.

Storms are expected to sweep across Northern Ireland every two or three days for at least the next fortnight, forecasters have warned.

Farmers, fishermen and motorists are all being badly affected, as the wind and rain batters us without let-up.

Those working the land are facing a catch-22 situation, as slurry can't be spread from overflowing tanks because of fears it will run off saturated fields and pollute watercourses, while the water is rotting planted crops.

Fishermen can't get out to sea because of constant storms, while roads are being washed out from underneath drivers.

According to MeteoGroup, the jet stream which is causing the problems shows little sign of moving from its position south of the British Isles, where it is drawing wave upon wave of low pressure systems into Northern Ireland.

We aren't the only ones suffering, as the Republic and the rest of the UK are also getting a pounding. Cork city resembles Venice, with canoeists paddling up and down the main streets, while in the south of England seafronts have been shattered, railway lines destroyed and already sodden areas suffered yet more flooding.

"There is no indication at present of it stopping. It's bringing a significant system in, at least one every three days over the next two weeks," forecaster Sally Webb said.

Meanwhile, the Met Office has warned that heavy rain and gale-force winds will continue to affect the UK heading into the weekend, bringing risks of flooding, damaging winds and hazardous waves in coastal areas.

The warning comes as a second road on the Ards Peninsula collapsed under the force of heavy rainfall and coastal surges.

A large hole appeared on the main route through the village of Ballyhalbert late on Tuesday, as the shore was battered by huge waves.

Earlier this month another road at Ballywalter underwent emergency repairs after it collapsed.

Last night Alliance Strangford MLA Kieran McCarthy said he was putting a motion to the Assembly calling on the Executive to secure investment in coastal and flood defences along the storm-battered coast.

"The coastline is disappearing and nobody is giving much thought to it, and from what I understand it is just going to get worse in the future," he said.

"Half the road has given way and I am not surprised. That road, along with others, needs a lot of attention and a lot of investment."

Resident Cedric Wilson said: "A very large hole has appeared on the main arterial route through the village and it is only by pure fortune that we are not talking about a fatality here this morning.

"There are four or five buses that come past here every morning full of schoolchildren on their way to the local college. I have no doubt those buses could have well disappeared down into this chasm."

Ukip Strangford MLA David McNarry said people on the Ards Peninsula were facing a "damnable" situation.

"It's affecting every aspect of life – from pensioners getting out and about, to the school run running an obstacle course every day," he said. "These were just things waiting to happen. Canute wouldn't even work here."

Meanwhile, farmers have warned they face a crisis situation if there is no let-up from the storms as they're unable to spread slurry from overflowing storage facilities because of the risk of polluting rivers and streams.

Some cereal farmers are also faced with having to tear up winter cereal crops swamped by flooding and replant them.

Fishermen are "tearing their hair out", unable to get out to sea with the relentless run of bad weather, according to Association of Northern Ireland Fish Producers spokesman Alan McCulla.

Last year the organisation had to appeal for hardship funding to support the fishing industry after high winds kept trawlers in port.

"The last thing we want is to see that repeated in 2014," Mr McCulla said. "Fisherman are concerned that this is what we are going to experience."

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development was asked for her assessment of the coastal flood defences during Monday's Question Time

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