BY JACKIE KEOGH
RESIDENTS in Skibbereen say a gas cylinder, lino and other household debris caused a flash flood during heavy rainfall at Bridge Street on Sunday.
Some of the people living and working in the 15 premises that were affected on the street believe the debris blocked a storm drain that was installed to protect their property.
They said the items were found in the drain during the clean-up, as the deluge was taking place between 5pm and 8pm on Sunday night. And that mud, twigs and other natural debris, were removed during the general clean-up the following day, a sunny Monday morning.
Instead of flowing into a drain and a huge culvert in an area known as The Cutting, off Bridge Street, the rainwater poured down the steep embankment and formed a river in a matter of minutes, taking the path of least resistance down Bridge St.
Properties from The Bridge Street Salon down were damaged, but the most damage was caused where the water pooled at the lowest point of the street.
Those worst affected were The Eldon Hotel, which is undergoing renovation, Venus clothes shop, Clerke’s shop across the road, and the home of an elderly resident, Mrs Barry.
One businessman paid tribute to the fire brigade personnel, the Civil Defence and the Council workers who, with ‘hands, elbows and arms in gullies’, did what they could to release the water, as well as helping with the massive clean-up.
Cahalane’s pub was another one of the fifteen premises affected by the flood, but the landlord, Colin McCarthy, typified a general positivity and resilience on Monday morning.
‘It was one of those things,’ said Colin. ‘We didn’t expect it. It happened at around 5pm and by 5.05pm there was ten inches of water on the road.’ But Colin, being Colin, served on. He took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his jeans, and continued to serve pints to the ‘lads’ down the back.
He said there was nothing else they could do until the drain, which is located at the lowest point in the road, was opened with a special key – a key that is held by the local authority. Eventually, a digger lifted it and the water drained away. Colin, meanwhile, lifted a side drain in the porch and saved the rear of his premises from further damage.
Colin, and other business people on the street, had very positive things to say about the people of Skibbereen who rallied from all corners of the town to help with the clean-up, and generously offered their own industrial dehumidifiers – a standby item in downtown Skibbereen.
One businessman said Cork County Council has questions to answer about the blocked drain. “The Southern Star” contacted the Council for a comment and a spokesperson issued the following statement: ‘The preliminary assessment appears to indicate that the sump, at the entrance to the drain pipe, was initially blocked by plastic sheeting and some household materials, which were then overlaid by vegetation and silt.
‘The sump was checked on a number of occasions on Sunday to see if it was clear. The last time it was checked was approximately ten minutes prior to the flooding event on Bridge Street. Soon after that, the materials appear to have been washed down into the cut area by the floodwaters, which resulted from the heavy downpour of rain.’
At Monday’s County Council meeting, Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) asked if the Council could request reports on all Flood Relief Schemes in the county and welcomed the updates that were sent out ahead of last weekend’s flooding. ‘While Bandon was lucky, Skibbereen wasn’t and while the weather was unprecedented we still need to learn to expect bad weather,’ said Cllr McCarthy.
Her fellow Sinn Fein Cllr Paul Hayes also echoed those sentiments.
‘We knew it would be a perfect storm and I want to commend the Council staff and emergency services for the work they did in Skibbereen over the weekend,’ he said.