Uncertainty for new year as flood defences to be maintained over Christmas period

Flood defences will have to be maintained throughout the Christmas holidays and possibly into the new year, Westmeath County Council has revealed.

The ESB issued an updated forecast on Monday of river levels along the Shannon for the next five days based on current flows and taking account of Met Éireann’s rainfall predictions across the catchment area. The forecast is that river levels may rise slightly between now and December 26, but that the level reached is unlikely to exceed the peak level recorded on Friday last.

The interagency Flood Response Coordination Group will meet again on Wednesday, December 23 at 11am to assess the situation at that time and to make arrangements for the Christmas period. It will also plan the recovery operation in the areas that have been subject to flooding.

The river Shannon peaked in Athlone and its hinterland on Friday last and was forecasted to recede slowly from then. As a result, the news that flood defences must be maintained will come as a blow to those affected by the flooding and those who have been fighting it for the last couple of weeks.

Councillor Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran was out manning the front lines from 2.30am on Tuesday morning (December 22 ). “There was a power failure down on the Strand last night and our mobile unit blew away with the weather conditions,” he said. “On top of that two pumps seized on us. If a pump breaks down the water comes very quickly and you are in trouble straight away. When that happened the water rose so quickly and the two lads manning the pumps got a shock. We were about eight minutes away from the first house being flooded by the time we got the pumps going again.”

Councillor Moran said many people have taken the news regarding the possibility of increased flooding badly: “People are down after the news yesterday that the water is expected to rise again. It is hard for people who are volunteering because at Christmas they want to be at home with their families. They have kids so you can understand that. But we have a good call-out service among ourselves and it looks like we will be here for the Christmas, but there is nothing we can do about that.

“It is either that or let the houses flood. We have fought it so far and we are staying focused. Everyone is fully committed to seeing this through. A lot of people think it is gone away but it has not, it hasn’t receded at all yet.”

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