Update: Galway's harbourmaster has hit out at the lack of warning for a severe storm which caused flooding in parts of the city and Salthill last night, writes Lorna Siggins.
The city’s emergency plan was invoked after southerly winds forecast at 40 to 45 knots hit 73 knots, and there was a sea surge over quays in the docks and in Salthill.
A cargo ship making regular deliveries to the Aran islands was thrown up on rock armour when it broke one of its moorings. The 39 metre Saoirse na Mara sustained considerable damage during the height of the winds at around 8pm.
There are also reports of fallen trees in a number of counties in the west and midlands.
Capt Sheridan said Valentia Coast Guard had been informed last night, and there was no pollution from the ship and no injuries to crew. Efforts would be made to refloat the vessel at high tide this morning, he said.
Capt Sheridan said the city had “only dodged a bullet by a miracle”, but said he was furious at the lack of warning.
“With climate change and sea level rise, we are only going to have more of these events and we need to be prepared.
“We need to remind ourselves that the planet is 70% water, and the ocean controls so much of our daily lives. Climate change is here and now,” Capt Sheridan emphasised.
The port had hosted an emergency training exercise for staff yesterday afternoon, and so Capt Sheridan said he had been particularly vigilant about weather forecasts.
“That exercise went off well, but at 3pm it was forecast for 40 to 45 knot winds on Wednesday night. It reached 73 knots and was off the scale.”
The gusts caused widespread damage to trees on routes in and out of the city.
Gary McMahon, from Galway City Council, outlined the storm's impact, saying: "There are cars which were parked in the car park in the Salthill area, and we understand that between 40 and 50 cars would have been flooded to some extent or other overnight.
"Between five and 10 properties in the city centre and the Salthill area had some form of flooding".
All weather warnings associated with the storm have been stood down.
Parts of the west coast of Ireland have taken a battering by Storm Elsa.
Up to 50 cars and 10 houses were flooded after Storm Elsa swept through Galway last night.
The strong winds led to a number of fallen trees, spot flooding and hundreds of homes losing power. The Christmas tree at Eyre Square market also came down.
Meanwhile, a transport ship that operates between the Port of Galway and the Aran Islands broke free of its moorings during the storm overnight. The 40m pallet carrier was left listing at low tide but is expected to be safely secured again with high water due around 10.30am.
It is understood the boat is currently blocking to channel through which the local lifeboat would normally depart after launching.
Crews have been working since 5am this morning to clear up the damage, but drivers are still being warned to take extra care on the roads.
The storm caused significant damage across Mayo last night and call-out crews worked through the night in very challenging conditions.
They are still dealing with some incidents.
Fire crews had been rescuing motorists left trapped in their cars on the prom in Salthill, Co. Galway, after winds from Storm Elsa caused severe flooding in the area.
A total of 15 people were rescued from their vehicles by fire crews from Galway City and Athenry stations.
High tide in the city was at around 10.10pm last night and coupled with onshore winds of up to 80 kilometres an hour, a large sea surge has flooded Salthill, the city’s Latin Quarter and the docks.
Specially trained Swift Water Rescue Technicians (SRTs) attached to Galway City Fire and Rescue Service helped evacuate people left trapped in their vehicles by rising flood waters.
Galway City Civil Defence volunteers attended the scene along with the primary emergency services.
Galway County Council has confirmed that its Crisis Management Team of GCC, Galway Fire and Rescue Service and Gardaí are currently on site in Salthill. Their advice to the public is “not to venture out.”
J*sus, it got even worse after that (after the last video I posted). Poor people coming out of the cinema to discover their cars in flooded car park. #StormElsa #Salthill #Galway @endacunningham @declanvarley @deric_tv @villagesalthill pic.twitter.com/EOMyQUljBe— PictureDiaryGalway (@PicDiaryGalway) December 18, 2019
National Ambulance Service resources have also been mobilised to the area however there are no reports of injuries.
Social media footage captured cars being swamped with water as waves pounded the area during high tide.
Sameh Mohamed, a Galway resident who was caught in the storms, said some of the owners of the vehicles rushed to retrieve them, but said some “are just stuck now”.
Some of the owners had apparently been in the nearby cinema when the waves started overtopping.
The area was closed off by the authorities when the flooding started.
Very windy tonight with severe and damaging gusts in parts of Connacht for a time. Showery rain will gradually clear northwards with clear spells and scattered showers following. Lowest temperatures of 5 to 8 degrees in strong to gale force southerly winds, veering southwest. pic.twitter.com/RhosJnR37y— Met Éireann (@MetEireann) December 18, 2019
Galway County Council warned residents to “stay indoors”.
“Do not venture outdoors unless absolutely necessary,” the council tweeted.
“Crisis Management Team of GCC, Fire Service and Gardai on site.
“Advice is not to venture out. Wind and rain making Salthill area and along coasts treacherous. Trees and debris on many roads. Stay safe!”
Salthill, The Spanish Arch and The Galway Docks are badly flooded. High tide is not forecasted until 23:00 so this will get far worse for homes and businesses in the areas affected.
A full emergency response has been issued by The Chief Executive of GCC. pic.twitter.com/M36iLe82Yp— Cllr. Eddie Hoare (@EddieHoareFG) December 18, 2019
Met Eireann issued an orange wind warning last night for counties Galway and Mayo, with gusts of up to 120km/h forecast.
The severity of storm had not been anticipated. The orange warning was issued only an hour before it came into effect.
The forecaster had earlier issued an orange warning for County Cork, which passed at 9pm.
The rest of Ireland is covered by a yellow wind warning until Thursday morning.
Additional reporting by Press Association