Worst rainfall since records began

FLOODS which wreaked havoc across Ireland last month were the worst seen since records began almost 150 years ago.

Figures have confirmed rainfall levels, recorded at the Valentia observatory near Cahirciveen, Co Kerry, were unmatched since the weather station opened in 1866.

Gerald Fleming, head of forecasting at Met Éireann, said in a single 30-day period a total of 358 millimetres of rain fell at the station – the equivalent of 14 inches.

“We had between two or three times the normal rainfall and over a period of 30 days that’s quite significant,” he told RTÉ radio.

He said if any lessons are to be learned the country and major firms needed to examine recent rainfall trends in more detail.

“We need to look even beyond the last month. When you look at the autumn months that was one-and-a-half times the normal rainfall and the summer had one-and-a-half times the normal rainfall.

“So we’re looking at a six month period where our rainfall was about 60% above average.”

Referring to the height of the flooding crisis, less than a fortnight ago, which led to the ESB’s controversial decision to release large volumes of water from its Inniscarra dam amid claims this was caused by incorrect weather forecasts, Mr Fleming said Met Éireann were “happy our forecast was correct. But almost every day that week brought almost an inch of rain”.

“ESB are saying they had 90 millimetres of rainfall in another point, but you have to compare like with like. They are taking their levels from up in the Cork and Kerry mountains, but there’s always more rainfall on higher ground.

“It’s interesting to look at this flooding event anyway because you’ve got to look back at three months, six months. That is not an issue of weather, it’s an issue of climate,” he said.

Met Éireann said its stations recorded more than twice the average amount of rain. Atlantic storms swept in pushing rainfall totals higher and higher. Rain or showers were recorded on almost every day, with between 22 and 27 wet days compared with the normal range for November of between 13 and 20.

Connacht and Munster experienced deluges of 10mm on many days, causing river levels to reach record highs in many parts of the midlands, west and south.

Cork Airport recorded the country’s highest daily rainfall on November 19 at 51.2mm, the worst at the southern station in 18 years and just before the ESB was forced to open Inniscarra dam and the already swollen River Lee catchment area flooded.

Valentia weather station’s monthly total of 360mm was its highest of any since records began in the area in 1866. Its previous highest total for the year of 1,923mm in 2002 was also passed during the last week of November.

But despite the devastating floods, record levels of rain, hail storms, battering winds and even a tornado, bizarrely we basked in more sun than usual.

Forecasters said sunshine levels for the month were above normal despite rain almost every day.

But Cork, one of the worst hit by the flood waters, had the highest amount of sunshine in the month, with the city’s airport clocking up 80 hours.


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