‘Flood Tourists’ beware

[I created this yesterday morning and wasn’t sure if I would publish it but the exact situation (described below)  happened yesterday afternoon – So I thought safety first]

canoe

I know it’s mostly harmless – and it’s satisfies a lot of curiosity but there are some things to consider if you have become a ‘flood tourist’. (I don’t remember the word in the 2009 floods but it’s echoing around South Galway at the moment)

Firstly it’s great that people are interested in the flooding crisis and the number of good wishes to the people of South Galway that I’ve had both personally and from the website is amazing.  For people who want a closer experience of the floods  the just 2 words ….

Be Careful!

The ESB Networks has issued a statement yesterday warning the public to be very careful in boats/flotation devices around electricity lines as many are close to the water.esb

ESB Networks is warning members of the public and emergency services to be vigilant when moving around flooded areas in boats and other flotation vehicles.

Matt Cunningham, ESB Networks, spoke on Galway Bay FM yesterday warning about ‘Flood Tourism’ and the inherent danger of boats/flotation devices around submerged electricity poles – where wires are close to water.

Another thing to consider is that in flooded areas – you are heading over fields,  trees &  walls. It is very easy to destabilize a small boat/canoe – Remember what happened to Joan Burton in her boad!  Another prime danger is barbed wire, it is very difficult to see – It can topple a boat and in 2009 floods I’ve heard to flows pulling people in canoes into barbed wire at chest height – Not a good situation.

[As I’m writing this 2 people in canoes have passed over a submerged wall 100 yards from me]

Lets be safe out there

What do you expect … when you built on a flood plain?

I run the ‘South Galway Floods’ Facebook page and every so often I get this type of a comment from people who don’t know too much about the South Galway Area.

In response to some families being commiserated on the fact that they had to leave their house due to flooding you get the odd idiot dig…

… “What do you expect … when you built on a flood plain?”

Rather then just reply to the comment (Which I did), I decided a deeper clarification may be in order.

Rain on the western and southern slopes of the Slieve Aughty mountains will need to be transported via South Galway to the sea at Kinvara.  South Galway doesn’t have the luxury of having a well defined river channel to transport the water.  Instead, as it is a heavily limestones karst region, the path to the sea is fragmented via underground channels.  In fact, some paths to the ocean may involve 7 transitions from overground to underground.

In normal summers it can be very easy to walk across these rivers as the flows are not strong, however in Winter with heavy rains, the floods can swell and the waterflow can be substantial. Now,  what would happen if you plug one of the swallow holes, or block a pre-existing culvert? It is very simple, the water would rise until it found a way to make it out to the sea? How? – The easiest path it could find. It doesn’t matter if this is through someones farm, or house or school it will take the easiest route. It may not be predicable what path it will take, and it may end up joining another flow, causing even more problems and more unpredictability. Take for instance this situation of a water flowing across the main N18 road outside Gort in 2009.   This was never seen before (or since) and was caused by a blocked channel. This would not be considered a flood plain.

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Flooding at N18 Kiltartan – Nov 2009

Another reality that we face is that in the past levels had time to rise and fall but as water had a much slower progression from mountain to sea. Now due to deforestation n the Slieve Aughty, poor flood-friendly forest management, new mountain roads, windmills etc, and better land drainage, water is flowing off the mountain much more quickly than before, and in greater volume which will cause the water to find different routes.

There was a new culvert in Kiltartan that was very efficient in taking water away in 2014 when water levels became very high (in Feb), but in Dec 2015 was rendered useless as it became submerged in several feet of water. Why was this?  It could have been because remedial work upstream caused an increase flow as well as the fact that the new motorway (M18) construction was restricting flows downstream and it simply backed up.

The underlying word that I use to define South Galway area with respect of flooding is ‘unpredictable’.  When you see houses 200-300 years old flooding for the first time – you don’t imagine conversing with the ancestors and accusing them of building in a flood plain.

When I look at Coole lake increasing in volume by something like 2.6 Billion gallons above the 2009 levels – how can we predict what that’s going to do to South Galway?

When John Melville sat down in his 160-year-old home house on Christmas day for a brandy he wasn’t too worried about the floods as the house had never flooded – His ancestors didn’t build on a flood plain. Several days later it came into the house.melvilles

When the Connolly brothers were setting up their flood defenses around the home house –   they were hoping it wasn’t as bad as 2009 when it came up 14 inches into the house. Caherglassaun lough eventually flowed into Ann Connolly’s house over 4ft 6 inches.

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Connolly’s house (Courtesy of : Sean Brady Aerial Photography)

That’s why the statement ‘What do you expect …… when you built on a flood plain?’ grates on me.

What I and the people of South Galway don’t expect is that South Galway is turned into a flood plain, which through negligence on the part of our government bodies and services, is becoming just that.

The worrying trend is that now people are almost expecting flooding issues around South Galway as if this level of flooding has always been present – It hasn’t – It can be fixed – There are solutions. Let’s keep pushing for them.

– David Murray