West Cork Wash out!

Flood waters submerge a West Cork road during November's floods

Best wishes and condolences to everyone in West Cork, Cork City and further afield whose homes and businesses were affected by the recent flooding….

In Ireland we don’t do climatic extremes very well.

Maybe it’s the inevitable consequence of a climate that consistently under delivers. We don’t get long, baking hot droughts, we don’t get bone-chillingly cold winters with lots of snow and ice, we don’t get anything extreme on the weather front, really… just a perpetually dreary middle ground.

As a result we’re rubbish when it comes to dealing with weather-related problems. In the summer we moan about the rain, but on the (very) rare occasions when the sun does shine for more than a few days the council starts running out of water. If it has the temerity to snow the entire country grinds to a shuddering halt until things thaw out again, and anything more than a stiff breeze has us running indoors to take refuge from falling trees.

But if there was one type of weather you’d expect the Irish to cope well with it would be rain. If Ireland had an official national weather, then rain would be it! And yet here, too, we fail miserably at the faintest whiff of extremity.

Last week it rained hard for a few days, and highlighted just how flimsy our drainage systems, flood defences and coping mechanisms really are. Huge swathes of West Cork and a substantial chunk of Cork City sank beneath the rising flood waters, thousands of homes were damaged, hundreds of vehicles stranded and countless commuters failed to make it home to their families.

In short, it was a complete shambles. And I was out in it!

I had to drive up to Cork airport and back on Thursday. The journey up wasn’t so bad, but the return trip was something else again.

According to the radio Bandon, and Clonakilty had become impassable, so I’d have to try an alternative route. I headed towards Macroom, then down the back way towards Dunmanway… and so began an “adventure” that I’d rather not repeat in a hurry, involving endless back-tracking, some hair raising floods that I managed to make it through, and one particularly bad one outside Dunmanway that I spectacularly failed to get through.

Stopped in my tracks… one of the many impassable bridges I confrontent on my drive home

Luckily a sympathetic lady in a 4×4 took pity on me as I waded through the swirling flood-water. She towed me out, and somehow I managed to get the car running again. A few miles down the road I came to a bridge… or at least a place where there should have been a bridge. It was underwater.

I hit “detour” on the sat-nav, and a very proper English voice uttered “recalculating” for the umpteenth time that day, before sending me left up a side road. I drove for hours, backtracking when the water blocked my path. Wherever I could I turned uphill, figuring that at least then the water would be heading the other way. This proved successful, to a point, but with one fairly major stumbling block… the River Bandon still lay between me and home.

Thwarted at every crossing point I tried I finally made it to Ballineen, and my last hope of making it across the river. I was in luck: the bridge was still passable, if barely. Triumphant, I headed for home, and then ran out of diesel. I could have screamed… in fact, I think I did.

After much faffing about I managed to get a bit of diesel and limped the rest of the way home I glanced at my watch…it was 4:15pm, a one hour journey had turned into a four hour plus nightmare.

I can understand us not coping well with heavy snow or prolonged droughts… these are, after all, unusual occurrences in Ireland, but rain? Give me a break!

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