Awesome power of the sea always has to be respected

Cars parked at the Prom, Salthill, as Storm Eleanor blew in from the Atlantic last week. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Cars parked at the Prom, Salthill, as Storm Eleanor blew in from the Atlantic last week. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

We were probably all taken aback a little last week when viewing pictures and footage of the Atlantic Ocean bursting in over Galway Docks and surging through some of the old city streets.  It was nature at its most spectacular . . . and most devastating too . . . but thankfully there were no casualties: just dozens of bewildered motorists, householders and local business people, jolted by the suddenness and power of the sea surge during the height of Storm Eleanor’s power on the Tuesday evening of January 2 last shortly after 5pm.

The omens weren’t good in the run-up to Eleanor’s arrival with a super-full-moon (known as a perigee, when the moon is at its closes point to the earth) on January 2, bringing with it, a series of high tides. Eleanor blew pretty much straight in from the West, sweeping in a massive ocean swell to a city, largely unprotected from the moods of the sea. It was though a strange kind of storm: at 4pm on the Tuesday evening of the storm, as we looked out onto Market Street in the city, a few of us remarked on how calm it had been. Within an hour or so though, all that had changed dramatically.

Sometimes after major weather events, a ‘blame-game’ scenario develops with everyone lambasted for the ensuing legacy of damage and destruction, but the power of the sea is quite awesome and in fairness to Met Éireann there was a status Orange wind warning in place from 5am on Tuesday morning, about 12 hours before Eleanor’s arrival, but with the benefit of hindsight, it should have been a Red one for the city, given the events that unfolded. Galway City Council are also adamant and unambiguous about the OPW (Office of Public Works) warning system that had predicted the biggest flood danger to be early on the Wednesday morning of January 3.

There was though a little confusion about Met Éireann’s initial geographical classification on Tuesday morning, January 2, as to the areas covered by the warning when they specifically listed ‘South Galway’ as the area at risk in the West. In a local context, people generally refer to South Galway as that stretch of country from Kinvara to Gort and over the Slieve Aughties. Met Éireann’s interpretation of South Galway was probably based on a look at the map of Galway, where anywhere from Clifden to Ballinasloe could be regarded as the southern part of the county.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.