SEVERE and sudden hailstorms are affecting the M18 more than most other roads, are all but impossible to forecast and have led to accidents on the route, according to the National Roads Authority (NRA).
Clare TD Joe Carey raised concerns about the Crusheen-Gort section of the route in the Dáil and he subsequently received a letter from programme and regulatory manager of the NRA, Gary Carey.
The NRA official stated, “There would appear to be a particular problem associated with hailstorms along the M18, which seem to be more frequent along this route than at other locations throughout the national road motorway network.
“It was such a hailstorm on January 13, 2015, which resulted in skidding accidents and the closure of the road for a time by An Garda Síochána.
“It is worth noting that some of the hailstorms recorded had such intensity that at one point they caused the road surface temperature to drop by approximately 5oC in a 30 minute period. The rapid drop in road temperature means that hailstones can accumulate to significant depths, even on treated road surfaces.”
The letter stated there had been discussions with Met Éireann on the matter. “Having discussed the conditions experienced on the M18 with Gerald Fleming, head of forecasting in Met Éireann, Gerald noted that these localised short and intense hail showers are virtually impossible to predict or forecast, even with County Clare being well covered with the Met Éireann station and radar at Shannon. With this in mind, the only action for a road operator when faced with these conditions is to implement operations to mitigate the hazard for the road user, as far as reasonably practicable.
“On many of the days that hail has occurred, An Garda Síochána has taken the decision to close the road, in some cases as a precaution and on others in relation to the response to incidents on the network. The NRA is firmly of the view that driver behaviour in those types of adverse conditions is a significant factor.”
The letter also claimed that the collision rate on the M18 is less than the national average for roads of its type.
Reacting to the letter, Deputy Carey said he wasn’t happy with the explanation given.
“It seems bizarre that one particular location in the state with a national primary route would be so adversely affected by intense hail showers. I’m disappointed with the NRA’s approach to this issue because quite a serious situation has developed along the Crusheen-Gort stretch of the national primary route.
“They don’t put forward any solution to the issues that have arisen. I’m disappointed with that. They don’t even commit to putting up signs to warn motorists, despite the amount of accidents,” he stated.
By Owen Ryan