Strong winds and heavy rain bring highest flood risk in 20 years

A submerged tractor in Feakle Co Clare on Saturday. More heavy rain is on the way to the area
A submerged tractor in Feakle Co Clare on Saturday. More heavy rain is on the way to the area

Communities along the Shannon were last night bracing themselves for even worse flooding as the ESB released massive volumes of water from Parteen weir.

Flood warnings remain in place as continuing rainfall also swells streams, rivers and reservoirs across the west and south-west. Weather warnings were issued for the West as 20-35mm of additional rainfall was expected in Connacht, Donegal, Clare and Kerry today. Gusts of up to 100km/h are forecast nationwide.

The National Emergency Coordination Centre have said there is a 'high risk' of flooding from Limerick City to Athlone.

More than 2,000 sandbags have been distributed by Limerick City and County Council to areas at most risk in the Shannon catchment including: Castleconnel, Montpelier and the Mountshannon Road in Lisnagry. The Shannon flood risk is the worst in 20 years.

Three areas along the river considered at high risk of further flooding will also have emergency drinking water points set up by the Red Cross: Athlone, Portumna and the Montpelier.

Sean Hogan, chair of the National Coordination Group which works with the relevant authorities during adverse weather, said Shannon-side residents should be on alert.

"It's filling and continuing to rise and may not peak until later in the week, so obviously people in that area who are in vulnerable areas by the Shannon still remain at risk of flooding," he said. "The message is to keep in touch."

Last night, seven pumps were in operation pumping water between the villages of Castleconnell and Montpelier.

A flood boom, which is a large inflatable wall, was also being used in Castleconnell to channel the water away from the village.

The ESB yesterday increased the release rate of water from Parteen weir to 375,000 litres a second, with a further increase rate expected on Wednesday.

The normal rate of water released from Parteen weir at this time of year is 40,000 litres per second. The ESB warned water levels along the River Shannon continued to rise last night with the flooding of roads, land and property in the vicinity, downstream of Parteen Weir, "highly likely"

A spokesman for Limerick city and county council said road closures are likely to be put in place this morning.

"The likelihood is that the rate will increase tomorrow (Wednesday) when it could exceed 400,000 litres per second. This is not a very common occurrence; it would have exceeded that in 2009. It happens once every couple of years," explained Vincent Murray, Senior Engineer, Limerick City and County Council.

"The rain that fell in Leitrim and up that end of the country is only coming down to us now so we are getting the brunt of that here and it is raining on top of that.

The next two to three days is therefore crucial as this water will spill into the Shannon, come down Lough Derg over Parteen Weir and into Limerick," he added.

Clare County Council is also anticipating further flooding of land, roads and potentially property along the banks of the Lower River Shannon in the Springfield area of Clonlara in southeast Clare.

Iarnród Éireann warned customers the Carrick-on-Shannon to Longford section of the Sligo to Dublin-Connolly line will remain closed due to flooding until this weekend. Flood levels are currently one foot above the rail head on the line with further heavy rainfall expected.

The IFA also warned thousands of acres of farmland are under flood waters in Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim, Roscommon, Clare, Limerick, Cork and Kerry.

Met Eireann's Evelyn Cusack said strong winds and rain will come from the Atlantic, so the west form Kerry to Donegal will be worst hit.