When the rare becomes the commonplace

The thing about Once In A Hundred Years events is that, they self-implode. They are no longer sustainable as news events. Once Once In A Hundred Years events happen and are repeated soon after, they lose their appeal. They don’t carry the awe and wonder anymore.

That’s the thing. When the unusual becomes the commonplace, we don’t blink anymore. When we see the yellow Breaking News logo on the bottom of the screen we don’t stare anymore, because what was unusual became the commonplace.

And so it is with the flooding. We don’t blink anymore because we are becoming more and more immune to the surprise of it all.

But the consequences are terrifying.

Once Galway city didn’t seem have a regular flooding problem at all. In fact, if you go back through the history books, it was 202 years ago that the first major flood was reported and recorded. (I’m sure if you go back further, Danny Healy-Rae will tell ya that there was a worse flood in the year 750 when God took revenge on someone swearing at him for the loss of a prized goat or something. But in terms of records, 1816 was a decent flood of note in Galway city.

In 1816, they must have thought that the end of the world was nigh. They didn’t have any weather warnings, no buoys out at sea except their own boys out at sea fishing; they didn’t have any scientific way of determining when the next one would come along, other than gut feeling. They didn’t have a Donegal postman. They didn’t leave down their frappuccinos in shock horror so that they’d get their smartphones out to capture it.

Of course, the city was different then, but the impact would have been substantial for its day. However, what they were not to know was that the next big flood to hit Galway city would not happen until after all of those alive that day had passed on. It was 134 years later before the city suffered such a deluge again.

You’d wonder if in the interim, they thought they had it cracked; that whatever they did in 1816 must have worked to keep away the floods for more than a century and a third. Maybe they dug better drains. Maybe they just prayed harder. Whatever it was, it wasn’t until 1960 that the place flooded again.

Even after that gap of 134 years, in 1960, they must have been fearful as well that the development of the city, the changing population levels and the construction of a whole new city would mean that floods would become a commonplace thing; that homes would have to be drained out every year and left to dry for months

But even then, there was not to be any repeat until 22 years ago, in 1995. And then not again until 2002, and then the pattern ran 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018.

There were big gaps in our history, plenty of grounds for optimism, yet now, flooding is becoming an event that happens more than once a year.

So we are going to have to get used to it, because it is here to stay. It is going to happen more and more often and we are just going to have to find a way of combating it, so that the devastation that is caused to businesses and homes does not happen in minutes. The increasing frequency means that Galway, now like Cork, is one of the most vulnerable major population centres in the country in terms of flooding.

As a modern developed city, we should be able to come up with some solution to ensure that we cope with it better. As many as 1,000 businesses and homes in Galway are most at risk if a major flood is to come along, so we have to be proactive in developing a solution to keep the city safe. Let’s look at options such as floating walls, demountable solutions, etc so that we are not beholden to the vagaries of high tides as if a port of olden times.

Throw the problem out to the many engineers and entrepreneurs who inhabit the colleges in town, hold an open competition with engineers to try to find some way of developing an early warning system which will protect the city and the towns like Oranmore and Clarinbridge which felt the brunt this time around.

Flooding isn’t going away, you know. Let’s deal with it.

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