Athlone councillors have praised “community effort” as the defining reason Athlone has avoided widespread flooding to the levels experienced in 2009.
At this week’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District, director of services Barry Kehoe said he initially had doubts about whether Athlone could be defended against the relentless rise of the River Shannon. “What the events of recent weeks have shown is that property in Athlone can be defended from flooding,” Mr Kehoe said. “I didn’t think it could be done if the levels reached those of 2009, but I am delighted to have been proven wrong.
“It was the communities in Athlone that got out there and did everything they could in order to protect their properties,” he said.
Mr Kehoe detailed to councillors the effort put in by council staff, agencies, and volunteers from around Athlone in combating the four major storms that hit the area throughout December. Since December 7, the inter-agency response group has met a total of 19 times in an effort to coordinate the response to the crisis.
In that time the levels in Lough Ree and on the river in Athlone increased to a height 50ml above that of 2009. While the rising water caused devastation to nine families who lost their homes, its impact was nowhere near as severe as in 2009 when 120 houses suffered flooding. A total of 79 family units were evacuated in the vicinity of Athlone as a precaution throughout December, 41 of which have since returned home.
A further 64 houses remain inaccessible but are not flooded. Members of the council at the emergency response group are now turning their minds towards the impending clean-up while warning that flood defences will still have to be maintained for a number of weeks.
District engineer, Pat Nally, informed councillors on Monday that the ESB is predicting the Shannon will recede by approximately 170ml over a five-day period, approximately 30ml per day, dependent on weather conditions.