While the families’ homes on the west side of town were not flooded, both houses suffered flooding in 2009, and the families asked to be moved because they found the situation too stressful.
Flood defence measures prevented flooding from occurring despite rising water levels in Athlone, Co Westmeath on Wednesday night. It’s estimated that 90 houses could flood in Athlone if water levels reach those last seen in November 2009.
River Shannon levels in Athlone rose by around 8cm between Wednesday and Thursday. However, thanks to the efforts of locals, council staff, the defence forces and the civil defence, floodwater was kept out of houses.
By Thursday morning the wind, which had been driving water towards the town, had eased as workers continued to battle the floodwater.
Extra pumps have been deployed in some of the worst affected areas. In places like Deerpark Road, the water levels appear to have dropped. Despite the flood defence measures there are major concerns about the impact further predicted bad weather could have.
Director of services at Westmeath County Council Barry Kehoe is hoping the forecast by the ESB isn’t accurate. It suggests a further rise of 31cm which would see the Shannon at levels like those of 2009.
“There is a bad forecast for Saturday of heavy rainfall,” Mr Kehoe said. “The effect of it will be to drag out the whole scenario into next week,” he said.
While some waste water has mixed with the flood water, Mr Kehoe said there is no issue with the water supply in the town. “It (floodwater) always needs to be treated as dirty water and a hazard,” he said.
If needs be, the council was prepared for evacuations, he said. In the case of the families who were provided with accommodation on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr Kehoe said “some people have requested alternative accommodation as it is just too stressful for them”.
In outlying areas some people were “marooned” like in Clonbonny and Carrickobrien, Mr Kehoe said. He said a scheduled transport service was being provided to bring children to school, to take people to medical appointments and for other essential journeys.
Although areas like The Strand and Wolfe Tone Terrace remain under threat on the east side of town and Deerpark Road and The Park and Parnell Square on the west side, the remainder of the town is continuing to operate as normal.
The Defence Forces has 30 to 35 troops filling sandbags and moving heavy pumps in Athlone. A spokesman said they had been on operations since 7am.