Work is due to begin on a flood defence system in Athlone this week. The flood-prone Iona Park will be the first area to benefit from a €6 million works project, as machinery arrives in the area on Thursday.
At the moment, soil samples are being taken from locations along the strand and the OPW is considering steel sheet piling, or driving interlocked steel sheets down the face of the river to stop the water coming up.
Work will be carried out by the OPW, meaning that it can start immediately, instead of going out to tender.
Deputy Kevin “Boxer” Moran (Ind ) described the start of work as “great news all round.” He went on to say that “Everything that can be done is being done, but I am still not happy, as I want us to do even more.”
The water level of the Shannon in Athlone is currently two feet higher than it was when the river flooded in winter 2015. In addition to this, locals are concerned about the possibility of further storms hitting the country.
“At this time of year people in Athlone are watching the weather forecast very closely,” said Mayor Aengus O’Rourke. “When have the sustained rain we have had, really every day or night since August, their concern is understandable.”
After weathering storms Ophelia and Brian, the former the worst on record in recorded history, Ireland is set to face down another 10-13 storms this winter, according to forecast site AccuWeather.
Ophelia and Brian will be followed by Caroline, Dylan, Eleanor, Fionn, Georgina, Hector, Iona, James, Karen, Larry and Maeve. Athlone and the wider midlands region was spared extensive damage and loss of life when Ophelia hit, but Mayor O’Rourke remains cautious.
“My over riding concern would be if we have a series of extreme weather events, that could really push us over the edge,” he told the Athlone Advertiser. “The month of November has been notorious in the past, but we are keeping a close eye on things as they develop.”