WEST Cork’s multi-million euro flood defences passed their first major test last week when 128ml of rain fell in 60 hours and most of the towns in the region escaped without damage.
Traders and residents in parts of Skibbereen and Bandon, which would have been devastated by similar events in the past, were naturally apprehensive and on high alert during the Status Orange rain warning from Saturday.
But a welcome, albeit a cautious one, has been given to the OPW schemes which are now over 90% complete.
Secretary of Skibbereen’s Flood Committee and businessman Cathal O’Donovan described the rain of last Saturday, Sunday and Monday as the first real test that the town’s scheme encountered.
‘All relevant authorities, such as Cork County Council and the construction company involved, were on stand-by. But the likes of Kennedy Bridge fared well with water flowing freely under it, thanks to the works. Ballyhilty Bridge is another good gauge. On Monday, water levels there were 8.1m, which would normally be high enough to flood Mill Road.’
Fellow member of the flood committee, Michael Thornhill, pointed out on social media there ‘wasn’t a drop of water’ on the Mill Road.
However, Cathal added: ‘While one swallow never made a summer, one flood never tested a scheme. We must tread cautiously. We will see in time how efficient it is.’
He pointed out that the low tides helped the situation considerably and that if such rain fell during spring tides ‘it might be a different story.’
In Bandon there was an air of confidence in the aftermath of the downpours, according to FF councillor Gillian Coughlan.
‘We’ve had to hope and trust that the scheme would work, but there was no test of it until this. The fact that there wasn’t the usual routine of people mopping out their premises or moving stock etc has created great confidence. The feedback has been extremely positive,’ she said.
West Cork’s third flood blackspot, Clonakilty, also escaped. However, it was more down to the luck of low tides as their flood scheme isn’t yet sufficiently complete to be properly tested.
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said the river did get pretty high, but fortunately didn’t burst its banks.
However, a number of rural roads were closed for a time around the county, with flood waters dangerously high on the Coppeen side of Dunmanway, in areas around Ballyvourney, in fields at Caheragh near Skibbereen, and on the N71 near Glengarriff.
The good news is that the mercury is set to increase drastically for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend with dry and much milder weather forecast. In fact, basking sharks have already been spotted off Cape Clear!