Kerry villagers on flooding alert ahead of high tides

People in the Shannon Estuary village of Ballylongford, Co Kerry, who were hit by severe flooding a year ago, are bracing themselves for high tides next month and in March.

Kerry villagers on flooding alert ahead of high tides

However, they are hoping that work on flood defences by Kerry County Council, due to start later this week, will help tackle the problem long-term.

Residents had for years been calling on the council and the Office of Public Works (OPW) to undertake the necessary work and a €92,000 grant was announced earlier this month for a protection scheme.

The scheme will include raising the embankment of the Ballyline river, at Sand Quay and other flood-prone areas, as well as work on sluice gates and valves that curb storm water.

As high tides are forecast for February 19, 20 and 21 and again in March, Noel Lynch, chairman, Ballylongford Enterprise Association, is hoping the works will be complete by the mid-February.

“Everyone is anxious that work should be finished in advance of these tides, which can be as high as 5.5m,’’ he said. “There were high tides last Thursday and Friday, but Ballylongford escaped because the strong wind that drives in a huge rush of water wasn’t there.’’

Mr Lynch said the council was working very closely with the local community and was availing of local knowledge to put in new embankments in locations vulnerable to flooding.

“The expectation is that the raised embankment will be high enough to stop the river from overflowing. If it works it will be a great relief to people here,’’ he said.

Tonnes of sandbags are also available. Some have already been placed along the river banks which are to be raised by about a foot above the height of the sandbags.

Last year, Ballylongford was flooded twice in “perfect storm” conditions, with heavy rain, gale force nine winds and a high spring tide all coming together, resulting in houses and businesses being swamped in Bridge St, Quay St and Sand Quay.

“Some of the houses still haven’t recovered from the damage,’’ said Mr Lynch.

Flooding in Bridge St was the worst in living memory, with the water rising from nine inches to over three feet in 15 minutes.

The then Minister of State at the OPW, Brian Hayes, visited Ballylongford and saw the damage wreaked by floods to people’s homes.

He was told clearly by residents that they wanted both immediate and long-term action to resolve the problem.

Local Fine Gael councillor Liam Purtill, meanwhile, is in contact with the council with the aim of securing a €10,000 funding shortfall for the work.

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