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Many Clare coastal businesses stayed closed on Tuesday, now schools have been advised to remain closed on Wednesday as well. Photograph by John Kelly

Banner beaten but not broken

Public compliance ‘undoubtedly saved lives’

CLARE all but closed down on Tuesday afternoon as Storm Barra saw a red alert imposed across the county.
Schools across Clare were shut on both Tuesday and Wednesday, while thousands of people, especially in the North and West of the county, were without power for a period of time.
While there were a number of trees down, the level of damage wasn’t as severe as many had feared, and certainly didn’t rival Storms Christine and Darwin, which wreaked havoc in 2014.
However, Chief Fire Officer with Clare County Council Adrian Kelly said that the precautions taken by the public had been crucial in preventing loss of life.
“The widespread compliance with the ‘stay at home’ Status Red alert in Clare alert undoubtedly saved lives given the extent of fallen trees and flying debris around the county. The closing of schools and businesses, together with the safety messaging both locally and nationally greatly helped to shape people’s reaction to the seriousness of Tuesday’s weather event.”
He said that the fire service had been very active.
“During the Status Red, all our fire crews were on standby in their seven Fire Stations, and attended incidents based on risk assessment of the weather conditions at the time – in all they attended over 55 separate incidents across the county, ranging from branches and minor debris/corrugated sheeting to multiple trees blocking main routes.
“Throughout the night firefighters worked hard in ensuring that trees and debris were removed to ensure that routes remained accessible for the public and for emergency services.”
Kilkee based County Councillor Cillian Murphy said that a gust of almost 130kmph had been recorded at Querrin, but he said there seemed to have been relatively little serious structural damage.
“Buildings have lost slates, there’s signage down, there’s hoardings down at buildings, Christmas decorations down, phone lines down, but there wasn’t real structural damage. Roads have bits of branches down, but nobody contacted me saying they had a few feet of water or the roof was gone from their house.”
While he said the wind had been very strong, the sea hadn’t been as problematic as it might have been.
“It was proper building-shaking wind, the sea was smoking in the bay in Kilkee but there was no swell behind it. I think there’s probably a bigger swell today compared to yesterday evening,” he said on Wednesday.
“From the Council’s perspective in Kilkee the two big worries we have are the Strand Line Wall, which is 180 years old or whatever it is, it needs some care and attention, and with the wind speed and wind direction that was forecast, there was concern there’d be structural damage to it.
“But because the swell height wasn’t there, that was fine. There are a couple of parts of town that are subject to flooding. The Council were out yesterday and they sandbagged a lot of properties, sandbags were left outside the depot in Kilkee if anyone wanted them, but they weren’t needed at all,” Councillor Murphy added.
Looking back, he said that while the wind had undoubtedly been very strong, there was “a sort of a lack of viciousness to it.
“A farmer I spoke to this morning said that because it was a steady high wind rather than gusts.”
Things could have been worse, he felt. “I think we escaped well. There are a lot of houses without power but the ESB are doing amazing work, I see lights coming back on in a lot of places.”
In East Clare, Councillor Joe Cooney said the impact hadn’t been terribly severe. “Yesterday morning for a couple of hours it was bad, from 7am up to maybe 9am, then it calmed down after that. There were a few gusts in the evening but nothing major.”
However Storm Barra certainly did leave a large proportion of the county’s population without electricity, and in a statement on Wednesday the ESB said it was doing everything it could to rectify the situation. “ESB Networks crews have been dealing with outages in Co Clare from early Tuesday morning since the onset of Storm Barra. Status red winds caused considerable damage to the electricity network in the county, impacting the Carrigaholt Peninsula initially, then Bunratty. As the storm moved throughout the day, several other areas, predominantly in West and Northwest Clare were affected. The damage is mainly attributable to fallen trees on overhead lines as a result of the high winds.
“Overnight, approximately 4,000 customers were without power. The large bulk of these customers were in Miltown Malbay, Quilty, Fanore, Ballyreen, Labasheeda, Carrigaholt and Ballyea – with other smaller faults affecting individual customers in the county.
“As of 9am today (December 8) this was reduced to approximately 1,000 customers as storm damage assessment and ongoing restoration efforts were carried out by our crews since first light, where safe to do so.
“ESB Networks will be doing everything it can to restore power to as many of these remaining customers by the end of today. However, some customers may be potentially without power into tomorrow (Thursday). It is very important that any impacted customers who use electrically powered medical devices contact their healthcare professional to make alternative arrangements if necessary.”
It urged people who come across fallen wires not to approach them, but to call 1800 372 999.
The HSE cancelled Covid-19 testing in the region on Tuesday, while Primary Care centre around the county closed early.
In a statement on Wednesday the HSE said that it had to cancel appointments at the Regional Hospital again. “All outpatient appointments and the majority of elective procedures have been deferred at University Hospital Limerick this Wednesday, December 8th, as the hospital deals with a sustained surge in emergency activity.
“Services at all other hospitals in the Group – University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, St John’s Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital – are operating as scheduled with patients advised to attend for their appointments. This follows considerable disruption in hospital services across the MidWest on Tuesday, December 7th, as a result of Storm Barra.”
In a statement on Wednesday Irish Water said that people in areas including Rockmount, Rineen, Glendine, Illaun, Tooreen, Knockbrack, Kilfarboy and Ballyvaskin may experience low water pressure and/or outages due to power outages that occurred during Storm Barra.
Spokesman Duane O Brien said, “Irish Water and Clare County Council understand the inconvenience caused and thank customers for their patience while we work to restore normal supply to impacted customers.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.