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A portion of the roof of the Leitrim Inn and Blueway Lodge was completely destroyed as a result of the tornado. Muiris O'Cearbhaill/The Journal
Storm Fergus

Cleanup under way as localised tornado strikes Leitrim Village

Significant damage was caused.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR is due to meet local residents and business owners in Leitrim today as a clean-up operation continues after the village was hit with a localised tornado. 

The freak weather event happened at 12.30pm yesterday afternoon.

Footage and photos posted on social media in the immediate aftermath showed debris scattered around streets and significant damage to cars and some property in the small village.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the ESB said it began repair work yesterday afternoon after the tornado caused damage to electricity networks in the village.

“Crews remain in the village today, continuing to repair the network,” the spokesperson said.

“26 premises remain without power at present and it is expected to have the remainder of the local network restored and reenergised by this evening.”

Justin Fannon of Leitrim County Council told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme this morning that the tornado came from a westerly direction from the River Shannon and proceeded along the Ballinamore Canal.

“It damaged trees and took branches into the air and carried debris along. Some of the debris landed on some cars behind the Leitrim Inn, and it then proceeded to take the roof off a house that thankfully was vacant,” he said.

He said the debris damaged three or four other properties on the main street of the town on the same side as the Leitrim Inn, and two other properties on the other side of the street before tracking northeasterly towards the marina, where it overturned three or four boats.

The local fire services were on the scene in less than ten minutes and closed off around 150 metres of the main road in Leitrim town, Fannon said.

The main road through the town remains closed this morning.

“Consulting engineers will be here in about half an hour and along with the fire service, we’ll be able to make a determination on the stability, particularly of the building with no roof,” he said.

“We’ll hopefully be able to make a determination as to reopening the road and the footpath in the next number of hours.”

Asked if children will be able to attend school this morning, Fannon said: “Half the village will be able to attend school as normal, the southern half of the village will have to take a detour to get to the school. No school children will be allowed to pass through the cordon.”

He also said that three families had to leave their homes as a result of the tornado. Leitrim County Council is accommodating one of the families, while the other two families went to stay with friends or relatives locally, he said.

“We’ll continue to support the family as long as we have to.”

‘It’s devastating’

Adeline Guckian, the owner of the Leitrim Inn and Blueway Lodge which suffered significant damage as a result of the event, also spoke to Morning Ireland this morning.

Guckian said patrons were in the bar at the time of the event and described the scene as a “warzone”.

She told the programme: “We won’t know the extent of the damage until everything has been assessed today. But we’re just all upset.

It’s devastating on the run up to Christmas. This is impacting the whole community. This is our livelihoods.”

“It’s it’s just the worst possible time of year for this to happen. We need significant assistance and I hope that somebody would visit us today.”

Gardaí asked that people avoid the area, as Storm Fergus crossed over the country yesterday.

“The village is closed. Please avoid the area and be patient while emergency services deal with the incident,” the An Garda Síochána account for road traffic updates posted on X.

The county was under a yellow wind warning, which saw very strong and gusty southwesterly winds throughout parts of the country.

Guckian said the restaurant had a lot of customers eating their breakfast and had got a chance to quickly check the damage to the premises after the event.

“I had to go into lockup and I did get a glance of the place inside and it was so weird just to see all the tables there with food untouched, mugs, drinks knocked over just everywhere. It’s unreal.”

Guckian said an insurance assessor will visit the business today, however she is unhopeful that she will get the assistance that is required. She added that the aftermath is devastating and that many people in the town, including her 20 staff, are affected.

‘Miracle’ no one killed 

Eileen Gibbons, who co-owns the Electric Bike Trails shop in Leitrim, told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme that she was in the local community centre when the tornado occurred. 

“It was shocking,” she said. “The amount of debris was just unbelievable. It was like a bomb had gone off.

We are all in the village very relieved that nobody was killed and nobody was seriously injured. It’s a miracle. 

Gibbons said she was hopeful that the Taoiseach would have “good news” following the tornado.

“There’s a lot of people’s homes that the roofs have been lifted off, the slates have been lifted off. There is a lot of damage and we just don’t know where we stand,” she said.

“There’s five businesses in the centre of the village. It’s just coming up to Christmas. There’s a lot of business going to be lost over the next while. There’s people’s homes now, they can’t go back into their homes. It’s devastation.”

Gibbons said roof tiles at the front of her business were lifted off and the windows were smashed, adding that she does not know when they will get electricity back or when they will be allowed back into the premises. 

She added that she had contacted her insurance company and is waiting to hear back from them, adding that she did not know how much it would cost to fix the damage to her premises or if it would be covered by insurance. 

‘Significant damage’

Leitrim County Council said a “number of vehicles and properties in the village suffered significant damage, with the roof being removed completely from one building and a number of other buildings suffering roof damage”. 

As a result, a council spokesperson said “some residents of Leitrim Village required alternative accommodation and Leitrim County Council have assisted and provided accommodation for those persons”.

The council added that a “significant amount of debris was thrown onto the footpaths and main road and a cleanup operation is now well underway”.

Guckian said that some residents in the town had to evacuate their homes yesterday after the event, adding that families and “everybody on the main street” has been affected by the event.

Kathy Earley, an employee at the Leitrim Inn and Blueway Lodge told the programme that the event “happened within seconds”.

“Suddenly, all the doors burst open, the windows burst opened there was dust and branches coming through from the street and the building started shaking. We didn’t know what was happening,” she said.

Earley said the staff directed the customers in the restaurant towards the backdoor, to evacuate the building, but the staff realised the damage out the back of the premises was too extensive already.

gardai-at-leitrim-village-in-co-as-high-winds-flattened-trees-ripped-a-roof-off-a-building-and-left-debris-scattered-on-a-street-after-a-possible-tornado-hit-the-area-picture-date-sunday-december Gardaí at a road checkpoint in Leitrim village last night. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

She said when the group re-entered the building, they could smell gas. Earley said the damage to the town was already extensive.

“The whole road was covered in slates, covered in flowerbeds, covered in rafters. Nobody could get through there was traffic blocked on either side. Everybody just went into a standstill for a couple of minutes just to absorb what was going on,” she said.

Earley said the response from the town has been “unbelievable” and everyone on the main street had been offered or is offering help. 

With reporting from Jane Moore

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