City unscathed after tidal flood alert

January 6, 2014

Newry and Mourne had a lucky escape from the serious flooding anticipated when a combination of high winds and high tides hit coastal areas last  Friday afternoon.

Such a weather event was last experienced in Northern Ireland over 100 years ago and police and councils were taking no chances as they issued a widespread flooding alert.

On Friday morning Newry and Mourne District Council issued 1400 sand bags at several locations to the public and businesses and closed the two car parks between the river and canal in anticipation of the expected high tides.

Local emergency and government agencies worked together throughout the day to ensure infrastructure, property and people were protected against the flood risk.

As the tidal surge hit the coastline at around 12.40pm, sea levels reached 1 metre higher than estimated tide table predictions and 4 emergency support centres were put on standby with Council workers assisting the response agencies.

Rivers Agency, DRD Road Service and NI Water also bolstered existing flood protection measures to prevent the impending flood waters.

Water levels in the Clanrye River rose considerably above normal levels but as business owners and residents braced themselves for flooding, the water levels receded within an hour and no major damage was done.

A subsequent warning issued by the Council on its Facebook page confirmed the risk of flooding had receded and that the future risk over the weekend was therefore greatly reduced but advised of unfavourable weather conditions throughout the weekend with conditions on Monday afternoon presenting a similar risk as seen on Friday.

The Met Office also warned of further coastal surges on Sunday and Monday, with flood alerts remaining in place in parts of Belfast and coastal areas. A yellow warning was issued for heavy rain on Sunday across Northern Ireland with possible travel disruption also expected on higher grounds due to outbreaks of rain, sleet  and snow across counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry and Tyrone.

Speaking on Friday afternoon about the unusual weather conditions, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin confirmed that flooding risks would remain high  over the weekend, particularly on Monday.

“We have concerns for what appears to be emerging for Monday. Our concerns would be every bit as great in respect of Monday as they were for today and indeed perhaps evensa little bit worse.

“Unfortunately we’re not over this extreme weather yet. We are anticipating another higher than usual high tide around midday on Sunday and Monday afternoon’s high tide has the potential again to cause widespread flooding,” he added.

He urged people to continue to avoid coastal paths and to drive with extreme caution and advised people to retain their sandbags for use  on Sunday and Monday.