Déjà vu for Clonakilty as town starts mopping up

Clonakilty reopened for business just hours after floods again ran through the centre of the town.

The high tide coming into Clonakilty Bay, kept there by very strong winds and driving rain, meant water rushed up Strand Rd, onto Clarke St and filled Croppy Quay like a basin.

Humphrey Deegan, a town councillor, watched on Tuesday night as water moved up Strand Rd and threatened his hotel, the Imperial. He was cutting timber to fit into one of the doorways and barely had it in place when the water arrived. “In the space of five or six minutes, it came up a foot-and-a-half,” he said.

Every doorway on the street featured a barrier, sandbags, or a combination of the two. Compared to the devastating floods in 2012, this was a flesh wound. The water crept up to step level but most places managed to avoid any major damage.

“Most people escaped,” Mr Deegan said, adding that the water “rolled up the street” in just 10 minutes which was “extraordinary”.

“They put the sandbags here and at the roundabout [near Croppy Quay at the entrance to the town] and that lowered the level of the water by about 18 inches.”

The efforts of locals and members of the Civil Defence, gardaí, and fire brigade were key to ensuring damage was contained. Huge sandbags had been placed at strategic points and had the effect of deflecting much of the water.

Not everyone escaped, however.

Eddie Hayes operates his IP-Net business across the street from the Imperial Hotel and admitted: “We got water in the door. It’s a mopping up job.” He said the extent of the damage was “nowhere near” that caused in 2012 and added: “That part of town, tidal flooding is a way of life.”

That is not to say action can’t be taken to ensure the risk is controlled, he said. “They need to keep the drains clean,” he said, adding that in some cases, local authority sandbags were handed out only when the waters were climbing.

Some buildings got hit worse than others. Rosemary Gallet’s neighbour across the street had raised the alarm earlier, and the sandbags were put in place in time, but more than an inch of water still came in.

“We are up against a huge tide that’s not going to abate for anyone,” she said.

All ground-level items had been lifted in advance and the tiled floor was being mopped yesterday. There was a ready comparison between this latest flood and the summer 2012 horror show — the plaster on the wall of some parts of the tourist office still bear the scars of 18 months ago, whereas very little damage was caused this time.

Outside on the street, council staff including John Crowley from nearby Ballinglanna were busy with the clean-up. “Tis bad,” he said.

In Lowney’s Jewellers, they were breathing a sigh of relief, not least because the waters didn’t make it in and because they are one of the few businesses in this part of Clonakilty with carpet on the floor.

“More needs to be done,” John Lowney said. “Since we had the bad flood in 2012 nothing has been done except all we hear about is experts and consultants.”

It again raises the debate about longer term solutions to protect the town and the surrounding areas, such as a tidal barrage in the bay.

The focus is on the Office of Public Works to do something, particularly since many businesses in the town previously hit by flooding cannot get flood cover.

“How many code yellow and code orange [alerts] have we had in the past six weeks,” Mr Lowney asked.

“Spend the money on the relief works — it’s not rocket science.”

One feature of the Clonakilty flooding was, once again, the massive local community effort to guard against the damage and to clean-up afterwards. A town council spokesman said 30 people from the town, as well as 10 members of the civil defence and six gardaí, plus members of the fire brigade, worked in windy and wet conditions to help deflect the worst of the rolling tide.

Some of those people didn’t stop work until after 2am yesterday, and were back on the job just a few hours later. “This morning it’s a case of getting rid of the scrag and the seaweed,” the spokesman said.

Out the road from town to Ring village, the air in Kitty Macs bar was thick with the smell of disinfectant. Minus the protection of huge sandbags, the pub got a hammering. “It came in through the toilets and over the flood barriers,” licensee Frank O’Riordan said. “We were bailing it out, but it was a big surge.”

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