Cork and Kerry braced for severe flooding

All of Cork's rivers could potentially burst their banks, not just the River Lee, a city council spokesman has warned.
Cork and Kerry braced for severe flooding

The already flooded Lee fields at the Carrigrohane road.

Homeowners and businesses across Cork City and county as well as in Kerry are preparing their properties for potentially severe flooding after Met Éireann issued a Status Orange rainfall warning.

Cork City is at risk of serious flooding from midnight tonight, with city council officials saying this will be a 48-hour event.

The Cork City Council's Flood Response Group has activated its flood plan and the Defence Forces are on standby.

Rainfall of up to 80mm is expected in parts of Cork and people are advised to avoid unnecessary journeys. 

New water ring defences are placed around the County Hall in preparation for the expected floods at the Carrigrohane Rd, Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

New water ring defences are placed around the County Hall in preparation for the expected floods at the Carrigrohane Rd, Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Status Orange rainfall warning came into effect at 7pm this evening, and will continue until Tuesday night.

David Joyce, the city council's director of operations, said that every area of the city is under threat.

"This is not a tidal event," he said. "The normal areas that would be flooded during a tidal event are not necessarily the areas which will flood this time around. This is a pluvial or rain event, and a fluvial or river event.

"It is going to start building from midnight tonight, ramping up from 10am tomorrow [Tuesday] morning, reaching a peak at 9pm tomorrow night and continuing until midday on Wednesday." 

Mr Joyce says all of Cork's rivers could potentially burst their banks, not just the River Lee. These rivers include the Shournagh in Cloghroe, the Bride in Blackpool, the Curraheen and the Glashaboy River through Glanmire and the Tramore River through Togher.

All of the rivers, whether they be big rivers or smaller streams, are likely to be under pressure due to the volume of water coming through the system, and the saturated nature of the land. The rain will run straight off the land and into the river."

This, combined with the fact that the rain is predicted to fall in heavy bursts followed by lighter rainfall, will lead to localised spot flooding.

"Just because you live at the top of a hill, or halfway up a hill, and there's no river near you, doesn't mean you're not in danger of experiencing flooding," said Mr Joyce. "You might be a confluence of where roads meet and there will be a lot of rain running down those roads."

He also implored people to not drive through flooded roads and to respect any 'road closed' signs. 

"These signs don't mean the road is closed to everybody but you... if you get caught in that flood, we are risking the lives of our civil defence and fire crews to rescue you from your car," he said.

Meanwhile, a Cork County Council meeting was interrupted today by its chief executive Tim Lucey, who said council workers were putting up flood defences and moving equipment from the ground floors of County Hall because of the building's proximity of the River Lee.

Flood water covering the Lee Fields Picture: Terry Attridge

Flood water covering the Lee Fields Picture: Terry Attridge

Mr Lucey also said the ESB's Inniscarra Dam was releasing water at approximately 150 cubic metres per second today, but the council had been advised the discharge will increase. This will likely lead to flooding downstream, especially in the city centre and its western suburbs.

In 2009, the ESB discharged tonnes of water from behind its hydroelectric dam at Inniscarra and the subsequent flood swamped the Lee Fields and continued towards the city, impacting vast tracts of the inner city centre.

Elsewhere in Co Cork, flood barriers were erected along the banks of the River Blackwater in Mallow and Fermoy.

Ross Rd in Skibbereen will also be closed to facilitate the opening of an inlet to drain off water.

Fiona Kearney, director of the Glucksman art gallery on the grounds of UCC, says preparations have been made ahead of predicted flooding. The gallery suffered extensive damage in the great flood of 2009. 

"We are just thankful we had time to prepare, the ESB contacted UCC this morning to let us know that there is a plan to up the release of water from the dam," she said.

"That has given us the chance to initiate our disaster response plan. For the gallery, that is the external implementation of flood barriers, but this happens across the university campus. 

We also brought some of the valuable works up to the upper gallery, in case there is an unprecedented level of flooding. 

"The flood barriers themselves are about three or four metres high." 

She added that UCC took a proactive approach after the 2009 floods, so they were able to prepare. 

"We have put the flood barriers up a few times since 2009, as a precaution," she said. "But this is the first time we have gotten a sense that there could be flooding on the lower ground."

Ms Kearney says she is hopeful the flooding will not be as bad as predicted, given that there is no tidal flooding.

She adds that she is worried about houses along the Western Rd as well as businesses across the city that have been shuttered for months due to the Covid lockdown.

It's so hard for Cork. It's been a tough year. Can we just get a break?"

Meanwhile, Kerry County Council has said further river flooding and spot flooding on Kerry roads is likely, and their rainfall totals could be between 50mm to 80mm, and will be higher in mountainous regions.

Their severe-weather emergency line is available throughout the duration of the Status Orange weather alert. People can call 066 718 3588 to report any issues. 

If you are based in Cork City and want to report an issue, you can contact Cork City Council’s Customer Service Unit at 021 492 4000 from 9am-5pm or the council's out-of-hours emergency number at 021 496 6512. Sandbags and gel bags can be collected from Anglesea Terrace and Tramore Valley Civic Amenity Site from 8am tomorrow, Tuesday.

For those in Cork county, fallen trees, flooding, and road damage should be reported to the council’s emergency out-of-hours number at 021 4800048.

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