Counting the costs of a stormy year

Compared to the wrath of Ophelia, last week’s Storm Dylan was a breeze, coming and going without causing too much damage.

Counting the costs of a stormy year

The current system, Storm Eleanor, has been more of a challenge but still had nothing like the strength of the most ferocious storm to hit Ireland in 2017.

By the time Ophelia struck on October 16, it had already been downgraded from a hurricane to a storm, but not so you’d notice.

As it swept across the country, it left major destruction in its wake, causing millions of euro in damage to homes, businesses, and public utilities.

This was an unprecedented weather event for Ireland with record-breaking wind speeds that precipitated the issuing by Met Éireann of a red-level severe weather warning for the entire country.

Figures released yesterday by the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government reveal the storm caused widespread damage and disruption, with 385,000 businesses and households without power and 109,000 people without water at the peak of the storm.

Ophelia’s visitation was fast and furious but so was the response of local authorities and government departments. Despite the damage and disruption, the recovery was remarkably swift, with practically all roads re-opened within 24 hours of the storm and all those who were without water having their supply restored within four days. All electricity customers were reconnected within eight days.

According to a statement from the department: “The speed of this work was enabled through the co- ordination work of the local authorities who led the response at local level in co-operation with the other principal response agencies, An Garda Síochána and the HSE.”

The department made over €7m available to local authorities to support this work.

Ex-hurricane Ophelia was not the only extreme weather event of the year. On August 22, an extreme pluvial rainfall event occurred which caused extensive damage on the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal.

Damage and disruption was widespread, with 59 households forced to evacuate their homes due to inundation by floodwaters and damage caused by landslides.

Infrastructural damage was extensive, principally in terms of the roads network, with many bridges and culverts badly damaged or washed away. The total cost of damage to the roads network was €15.3m.

The response, led by Donegal County Council in co-operation with the other principal response agencies, was swift and effective. The department made €1.73m available to the council to cover some of the clean-up costs.

On November 22, severe flooding affected Mountmellick, Co Laois, following an extreme rainfall event that caused the River Barrow to overflow its banks. Roads were impassable due to floodwaters and some homes and businesses in Mountmellick were inundated and a number of houses had to be evacuated. Emergency accommodation was provided by Laois County Council for the households affected.

The department provided €208,000 to Laois County Council to help with clean-up costs.

According to Minister Eoghan Murphy, a contingency fund is now needed for storms and flooding which are becoming more widespread.

He said: “These severe events are becoming less exceptional, and a standing fund is now needed to guarantee to local authorities that expenses incurred in protecting homes, businesses, and infrastructure will be covered — so that they can provide the most effective response, both before and after such an event.”

Event with response and clean-up costs

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia €7,027,506.48

Inishowen Flooding €1,729,122.41

Mountmellick Flooding €208,727.00

Total: €8,965,355.89

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