TODAY MARKED THE OFFICIAL START OF THE FLOOD SEASON 2010 IN CLONMEL. Stephen Gill files this report.
Up on the mountain, the season brings a fall of dead leaves, grasses, and loose rocks and stones which tend to scatter the landscape without a bother to anybody. But when you add heavy rain into the mix this foliage becomes a dangerous problem for those of us who live on the mountain side. It brings a wake-up call for those who are not wise to the way Mother Nature plays her role in the world. A little light rain helps collect dregs of foliage into fallen branches and over time creates a light dam. After a while over the summer these dams will get bunged up with mud and stones and come into autumn you have a large pool of water just waiting to get out. Or more often than not many pools. These become spots for the amateur naturist and a drinking hole for wildlife, but you must remember--it is only a dam. Eventually it will burst.
So then comes the rainy season. Heavy rain coming straight in from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. Merciless and unforgiving. The persistent showers fill the lands with water which flow downstream, following the valleys to the rivers, and then out to sea.
But not so fast.
Remember the dams. The heavy rain hammering down on them softening up the banks. Many inlets flooding into the streams, trickles swelling up to taurents bringing more foliage and then... something slips. A year's supply of grass, leaves and stones are driven down the stream forcing through everything it passes. Water cascading collecting more debri as it falls. More rain, more inlets, more speed.
Today this is what happened with my stream beside my house. All those leaves, grass and stones hit a protective grating, by a pipehole which feeds the stream under a road and between some of the houses. I was away and wasn't able to see it for myself but I will try to locate some pictures or videos of it to show you. The stream burst its banks and rampaged on through my neighbours' houses and down into the houses and streets behind, bringing everything with it. Now we aren't talking about a tsunami here but for those affected it was a complete disaster. Houses flooded, garden walls knocked away and newly fitted kitchens ruined, And this is just the start.
The council are midway through the construction of flood defences here in Clonmel, which supposedly is meant to protect us from this problem. One question put to me today was, "Won't these walls prevent the water from escaping as well as stopping the river from flooding the town? How will the water from the mountain escape? Won't it just be trapped?"
This is a good point. With all these eight foot high steel reinforced concrete waterproofed walls, what is preventing the mountain flood waters from causing havoc for those in Old Bridge? To add illness to injury, they will be closing the four bridges of old bridge for flood maintenance and eventually cutting off vehicle access to Old Bridge all together during the early parts of next year. What is in it for the residents of Old Bridge? This fundamental problem isn't being addressed. Every year they get flooded, mostly because of mountain streams, and couldn't this "Flood Protection" make it worse for them? If you have ever been in Old Bridge you will notice that there are a lot of elderly patrons living here. This problem is no longer a laughing matter, but a real danger.
There has already been a terrible wake-up call for a dozen homes, some with pensioners and at least one heavily pregnant lady. So I will leave you with these questions.
Are we doing the right with these flood barriers?
Are we putting ourselves in more danger?
And what is the Council going to do in the meantime?
Here is a link to the only footage of the flooded stream, captured by Shannon Kennedy, 16 years old, one of our friends, on her mobile phone and downloaded to facebook for me. Now it doesn't seem to appear like much, but it has destroyed atleast five homes.
Guest post by Steven M.P. Gill. Mobile Phone Footage by Shannon Kennedy.