Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Deja vu all over again as province battles snow

The current snowstorms have seriously curtailed life in Northern Ireland, with more than 70 schools closed, major sporting events postponed, social engagements cancelled, and transport severely disrupted.

At one point in the last day or so, more than 120,000 properties throughout Northern Ireland suffered power cuts, and even by late afternoon yesterday some 48,000 homes and businesses had no electricity.

The situation was so bad that engineers had to be brought in from Scotland and the Irish Republic to help deal with the crisis, and to restore power as quickly as possible.

But there is an air of deja vu about some of this. Only a few years ago there was also very widespread disruption and this was followed by a detailed inquest by electricity authorities who assured the public that measures would be taken to ensure this kind of disruption would not happen again.

This was followed more recently by a prolonged and severe freeze around Christmas time which paralysed many parts of the province and disrupted the water supplies so severely that people had to queue for supplies from communal taps, like citizens of a third world country.

The truth is that Northern Ireland, like many other parts of the UK, is still not prepared for severe weather, and people are entitled to ask why we still cannot cope despite all the warnings.

In a modern 21st century economy it seems incongruous that we remain so much at the mercy of the weather, and that life is so disrupted on an increasingly regular basis.

Whatever the arguments for or against global warming, it appears that our weather conditions in general are becoming more severe, and this obviously requires a whole new approach by governments and other responsible authorities to plan for the worst and to take the best measures possible to combat the elements.

We need to learn more from the bitter experience of the past to secure a better future where we will not remain endlessly at the mercy of predictable bad weather.

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