Author: Francis Farragher
~ 5 minutes read
WHILE we’ve had a stormy conclusion to 2023, the abiding memory of the year will be the downpours endured since early July.
Storms were few and far between through the first half of the year but they did strike back quite dramatically on the weekend of December 9 and 10.
Elin on the Saturday and Fergus on the Sunday delivered twin strikes on that weekend, but despite the high winds, Galway and the West of Ireland, escaped remarkably unscathed.
Fergus delivered the strongest gust in the country recorded at the Met Éireann Mace Head weather station in south-west Connemara 117km/h (72.5mph) around 3pm on December 10.
The storms led to short-lived power outages in parts of Galway while a number of parked cars fell victim to wave overtopping and flooding at the Claude Toft car-park near the Salthill Promenade.
However, the real wind and flood damage of the autumn season happened with the arrival of Storm Debi on the Monday of November 13 when parts of South Galway were ravaged.
Clarinbridge, Oranmore and Kinvara bore the brunt of Debi, with damage – estimated to be in the region of €1 million – suffered by businesses in those villages.
Local Oranmore resident and Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Liam Carroll, in the aftermath of Debi, described the damage caused to shops in the local area as ‘absolute devastation’.
During the height of Storm Debi, a gust of 114km/h (71mph) was recorded at the Athenry Met Éireann station.
Debi arrived in the early hours of Monday morning, November 13, and in all probability would have been a far more potent threat in terms of personal injuries or even fatalities, if it had occurred during the day. Even with most people asleep during the peak of Storm Debi – which only lasted for about two hours – Galway County Council still had 120 storm related incidents reported to them.
The country did have mild flirtations with storms through the early part of the year: Otto on February 17 and Noa on April 12; while during August, Storm Betty ‘called’ on the 18th, preceded by Antoni on the 5th.
In terms of our official 2023-2024 storm season, the first named event, Agnes, struck on Wednesday, September 27, but impacted mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the country where an orange wind warning was in place.
Babet was next up, moving across Ireland from October 18, but it will be remembered most for the huge rainfall it brought to mainly southern counties over a two to three-day period. Cork Airport, on Wednesday, October 18, recorded an astonishing 55.6mms. (over two inches) of rainfall.
While Ireland escaped the worst ravages of Storm Ciarán on the Wednesday and Thursday of November 1 and 2, parts of mainland north-west Europe were not as lucky.
Ciarán turned into a vicious beast and was the biggest ‘killer storm’ of the season in Europe, claiming at least seven lives in France, Germany, Belgium and Holland, according to The Guardian newspaper.
After that, Debi did the most damage in the West of Ireland, before the double-whammy of Elin and Fergus arrived, while Storm Gerrit ‘blew into town’ this week, peaking through the early hours of Wednesday morning last.
Rain though was the main theme of the year, after we’d enjoyed a promising start to the summer with a very dry May and quite a glorious first half of June.
However, since the weather broke through the second half of June, we’ve endured a real pummelling of rain with July ‘taking the biscuit’ in terms of rainfall totals.
The headline in the Connacht Tribune edition of August 4, 2023 read: ‘July – a washout of a month’, and the statistics certainly bear that out.
During our seventh month, Athenry was the wettest place in Ireland with a rainfall total of 224mms. (8.8 inches). Three other West of Ireland stations – Mount Dillon in Roscommon; Knock Airport and Newport (both Mayo), also topped the 200mms. mark for July.
Since then, no month has been under the 100mms. rainfall total with October particularly wet on 180mms. although this pales in comparison with Cork Airport which was hit with a whopping 307mms. of rainfall during our tenth month.
Prior to July, the wettest month at the Athenry Met. Station had been March with 185mms. of rain.
Abbeyknockmoy farmer and weather recorder, Brendan Geraghty said that the rainfall total for this year – now likely to finish up around the 57 inches mark – would be ten inches more than the 2022 figure and 14 inches more than the 2021 total.
However, Brendan Geraghty said that the 2023 rainfall figure would still not come close to the 2015 total of 61.13 inches that he recorded.
“It certainly wasn’t a great year for farmers. We had a very wet March which made for a late spring: then the heavy rains of July continued into autumn, leading to very poor ground conditions. It has been a difficult year on the land,” said Brendan Geraghty.
In his rainfall records [Galway city] from 1966 to 1999, the late Frank Gaffney, had his highest total in 2002, standing at 1,587mms. or 62.5 inches, while his wettest summer month on record was August, 1985, when he recorded 236mms. (9.3 inches) of rainfall.
Pictured: Flashback flooding…Clarinbridge took the brunt of the local damage from Storm Debi. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:
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