THE fourth flood in 18 months hit Bantry this week as Storm Barra unleashed its force, coupled with high spring tides, and yet again a number of businesses fell victim to flood waters.
Bantry has been flooded so many times in recent years now that it seems a foregone conclusion when storms hit the southern coast that the sandbags will be out, and early morning alarms will be set by shopkeepers, keen to check on the inevitable damage.
The local fire station staff were out in force once more – a familiar sight around the town square and streets closest to the bay, when heavy rainfall and high tides collide.
It was no different on Tuesday morning when sunrise saw many shopkeepers already engaged in the ‘mopping out’ process, though many are so well prepared now that shelves have been raised off the floors and in many outlets, there is little of value left within reach of the encroaching waters.
But the one thing that unites the townspeople in times of need is the great community spirit experienced throughout the town. Skibbereen, Bandon and Bantry have experienced it also in the past, as heavy rainfall caused havoc for the retailers in those towns, too.
It’s a case of ‘all hands on deck’ as local people congregate to help out, source useful equipment and put their shoulders to the wheel to get everyone back in action in the shortest possible time.
This week was no different, and social media was put to good use with locals offering words of encouragement and support – and even free breakfasts and cuppas – for those engaged in the cleaning-up process.
And while there is a great sense of just ‘getting on with it’ every time the waters rise, there is also a sense that people are weary and worn out and they just need to see the situation sorted.
Those other towns have all reaped the benefit – only very recently – of their largely-completed flood relief schemes.
There is no doubt that reports of flooding would be far more widespread this week in West Cork, were Storm Barra to have descended on the south west coast four or five years ago.
But now Bantry needs to take its rightful place among its cohorts in the region, and give its townsfolk some – literal – relief from the constant fear of being overwhelmed by high seas and heavy rain.
Unfortunately for this well-known and much-loved town, its own flood relief scheme – although in progress – is still a few years off.
Even the plans to overhaul the culvert system which runs below many of the town’s most affected streets, still has some way to go before it is commenced.
Some minor works and strategies which were employed since the last major flooding events certainly helped to mitigate the potential for damage earlier this week.
But none of that is enough for the exhausted shopkeepers who dread hearing the words ‘storm’ or ‘heavy rain’ when they listen to the Irish weather forecasts.
Pressure must be put on central government to expedite the plans for the overall flood relief scheme for the town.
With climate change predicting more heavy rainfall episodes, combined with stronger Atlantic storms, the major works needed to protect this historic town and its wonderful local businesses cannot come quickly enough.