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Flooding in Bray after Hurricane Charley in 1986. RTÉ Archives
Hurricane Charley

It's been 30 years since one of the worst storms in living memory

The storm caused hundreds of people to flee their homes – one woman saying that water-levels were ‘up to my chest’.

THIS WEEKEND MARKS thirty years since Hurricane Charley, one of the worst storms in living memory, swept across the east coast.

In August of 1986, high winds and heavy rains swept across Dublin and Wicklow, causing extensive damage to buildings through flooding.

One of the worst-affected areas was in Bray Co Wicklow, where up to one thousand people were evacuated from their homes as the banks of the river Dargle burst.

Hurricane Charley Devastation after the storm hit Bray Co Wicklow. RTÉ Archives RTÉ Archives

In footage released by the RTÉ Archives this week, reporter Charlie Bird is heard wading through the water with locals while alarm bells ring furiously in the background.

It’s proving impossible to get to the supermarket. We’re now in – how many feet of water – three, four? And we’re looking across at the SuperQuinn trying to get the food out…

“The most incredible sight: the whole street, the whole area is covered in water.”

The gardai and the civil defence can also be heard calling for back up:

We need more of that now, we need boats and we need lights. We need something that’s fairly strong because there’s a hell of a current here.

The whole discussion between the emergency services can be heard in the report as they try to think of who might have boats strong enough to navigate through the flooded town.

Try Dun Laoghaire, Dun Laoghaire Yacht Club they might have stuff in there, if there’s no serious flooding in Dun Laoghaire!

Emergency Services Hurricane Charley Emergency services responding to Hurricane Charley. RTÉ Archives RTÉ Archives

The extent of the flooding wasn’t realised until midnight that night, and hundreds of home in an area called ‘Little Bray’ were flooded as a result of the storm.

Some residents were stuck in the upper storey’s of their homes overnight because of the extent of the damage at ground level.

RTE reporter Charlie Bird Charlie Bird reporting for RTÉ from Bray, August 1986. RTÉ Archives RTÉ Archives

In this piece to camera, filmed at 2.30 in the morning, Charlie points to “two gas containers” behind him which have broken loose:

There’s a heavy smell of gas in the air.

He goes onto say that if the water level rises any further, “gardai are worried that it could cause an explosion”.

In a series of interviews with residents who were forced to flee their homes, the true measure of how dangerous the floods were is shown.

One woman remarks that the water ‘was up to my chest at that time’, and that she remained in the house for so long because she didn’t think it would get that bad.

Just recently, the river Dargle’s walls have gone under refurbishment to limit the chance of flooding to the town’s residents and businesses.

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