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Athlone floodwaters at highest level since records began (and there's more rain coming)

Wet and windy weather will spread from the southwest on Wednesday.

Updated at 10pm

4/1/2016. Storm Frank Athlone. L to R. Privates Oi Privates Oisin Daly and Christopher Connors of the 6th Battalion man the pumps and sandbags as the River Shannon continues to rise and cause more flooding in Athlone. Source: Eamonn Farrell

THE NATIONAL COORDINATION Group dealing with the ongoing flooding crisis is urging drivers to be vigilant travelling on local roads this week – as people return to work and school after the Christmas break.

The group – which includes a range of state agencies – met again today to discuss the problem, amid warnings of further heavy showers to come.

Water levels along the River Shannon in the midlands could continue to rise for another week, the Office of Public Works has advised.

Spokesman Jim Casey confirmed today that water levels are at a record high in Athlone and Lough Ree:

We would expect it to continue to rise for a number of days yet, maybe a week and provided we don’t have any rain thereafter, we’d expect to see a fall.

According to the latest update this afternoon, levels in Athlone have risen by 4cm in the last 48 hours and are now 1cm above 2009 levels. Lough Ree is 5cm above its 2009 peak.

ath1 Source: Google Maps

Weather 

Met Éireann’s head of forecasting Gerald Fleming described the month of December as ‘highly abnormal’ saying:

“When you look at the month of December as a whole, in many of our stations we got more rainfall in December than we would expect to get in the whole winter.

It’s unprecedented in terms of our memory and records – which in some cases go as far back as 100 years.

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Showers will become heavy and prolonged in eastern areas this evening. There’ll be further showers and heavier spells of rain in east Ulster and east Leinster tomorrow, according to the weather service.

4/1/2016. Storm Frank Athlone. A for sale sign out A For Sale sign outside the Bastion Apartments in Athlone, from which residents were evacuated last night because the ESB disconnected the electricity, due to flooding from the River Shannon. Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

To the west, there’ll be a mix of sunny spells and scattered showers.

According to the summary, we’ll have:

…expected rainfall amounts this week around or just below average for most areas, though amounts still above normal in coastal regions of the north, west and south.

Wet and windy weather will spread from the southwest on Wednesday with some heavy rain likely in strong southwest winds.

Showers will follow on Wednesday night, while Thursday will be a cold day with some showers, occasionally wintry.

Evacuations

Over 100 residents were evacuated from an apartment complex in Athlone overnight due to flooding from the Shannon. The ESB cut off power supply to 60 apartments after part of a nearby ESB sub-station became submerged in floodwater.

In its update this afternoon, the Emergency Coordination Group said over two hundred properties, including homes, had been affected by the escalation of flooding in recent weeks, while a similar number of properties are at risk from flooding.

Members of the Defence Forces have been operated pumps in several areas – and are assisted with the building of flood defences. They’ve also been transporting locals and have manned pumps in a number of locations.

‘Relocation is likely’

The Minister of State at the OPW Simon Harris told the media this afternoon that he’s not ruling anything out regarding people moving from flooded areas:

In some cases relocation is likely. The government isn’t in the position of telling people to move house but in some cases where people want to move and whereby there isn’t a viable solution, then that’s a very serious option we’ll have to look at.

He also added that the funding of €8 million for local authorities will have to be increased.

Meanwhile, speaking on Newstalk Breakfast earlier today, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said he was confident additional money would be made available if needed:

I don’t think that money is going to be the restriction here. The OPW has already committed €431 million to flood relief between now and 2020 – that’s more than has been spent on the last 15 years on flood relief is going to be spent in the next five.

“If more money is needed for example for SMEs I’m very confident that we’ll approve that tomorrow. If more money is needed for households, I’m sure the Tánaiste would approve that tomorrow or bring it to cabinet.”

President’s visit

President Michael D Higgins says he witnessed “a great sense of determination to overcome” when he visited homes in South Galway this morning.

The President met families and businesses affected by the recent flooding in Labane.

He added that he was struck “by the solidarity and resilience of communities” and commended all those who have come out to assist others, saying:

It is especially important that as a nation we pull together now to address the urgent challenge of managing these events and of putting in place the mechanisms needed to ensure better preparedness in the future, as the evidence points to these extreme events becoming more frequent, and accelerating, in the years to come.

The home of an elderly couple in Waterford was flooded after being completely renovated following extensive water damage in 2009.

The daughter of the couple, Caroline Lynch, told RTÉ’s Liveline that the damage from previous flooding was so extensive the couple “had to go back to the bare bones of the house” and “put in a whole new one”.

They lost everything. They literally had to take out the floors.

Lynch said they were flooded again the 10 December, and again last week.

She explained that the local council had allegedly pumped floodwater to a pond on higher ground from the house. This overflowed and flooded the couple’s home, along with their neighbors.

Travel 

The Cork – Waterford Road (N25) remains closed between Castlemartyr and Killeagh due to flooding, and is likely to remain closed until at least Wednesday.

Diversions are in place, while eastbound HGVs from Cork to Waterford are being asked to detour via the N8 as far as Cahir and to take the N24 (heading in the other direction, the opposite applies).

Meanwhile, AA Roadwatch is advising motorists to check its website before travelling as a number of roads remain closed due to flooding, particularly in parts of Munster and Leinster.

Fifty roads in Cavan are currently underwater and are expected to stay that way for the coming days.

The Road Safety Authority added that there is also the added danger posed by storm damaged road surfaces and gravel and stones which have been deposited by surface water, especially on regional roads.

Other advice 

People are being advised to avoid contact with floodwaters, which may be contaminated.

  • If it is necessary to walk through floodwater, use a stick or walking pole to test the ground under the water. 
  • Don’t enter flowing floodwaters – they may be deeper and faster flowing than they appear. 
  • Walking along riverbanks should be avoided as ground may be unsafe due to swollen rivers. 
  • The Coast Guard advice remains the same - anybody who might visit coastal areas should take care. Their general safety message is: Stay Back, Stay High & Stay Dry.

Enda Kenny will chair a meeting with all agencies involved in the River Shannon tomorrow morning and the cabinet will be briefed tomorrow afternoon.

With reporting from Daragh Brophy and Nicky Ryan.

Read: Some 260 homes have been flooded, while 230 more are at risk>

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