Violent storm leaves 22,000 homes without power

A Mighty Wind

A Mighty Wind

Gardai, emergency services and local authority workers reported one of their busiest days ever last Wednesday, as hurricane force winds battering Waterford knocked out power to around 22,000 homes and businesses in the area.

The storm, ranked by Met Eireann amongst the top five worst to hit the country since weather records began, saw unprecedented winds of 120 kilometers an hour recorded at Waterford Regional Airport. Gusts of storm force 11 were experienced in both Waterford city and Dungarvan.

The ESB emergency hotline reported 600 calls in the Waterford area on Wednesday, as violent gusts brought down trees and power lines all over the county.

Waterford County Council also reported a large volume of calls throughout Wednesday as a result of falling trees and debris on roads creating a considerable number of road and public safety issues. A number of garda units were dispatched to lend assistance to other emergency services in resolving these problems.

Between 3pm and 5pm, gardai assisted the fire service and Waterford County Council in traffic managment on the N25 near Haughton’s Pub while a tree was being cleared from the road.

Gardai also lent assistance to local authority and emergency services with regard to trees and power lines in the Christendom area of Ferrybank. Shortly after 3pm, a fallen tree on John’s Hill caused considerable structural damage and traffic disruption in the locality of Cheshire homes. Falling trees and power lines also caused traffic problems in the vicinity of Mount Congreve at around teatime on Wednesday.

Though the winds abated by 7pm, there followed significant power and phone line outages across the county for several days, affecting up to 22,000 homes and businesses at the peak on Wednesday night. Clonmel was one of the worst affected areas of the country, with 6,157 homes without electricity at one stage. About 400 home in Co Waterford were still without power as we went to press on Monday evening.

Water supply in areas of Tramore, Dunmore East, Butlerstown, Lismore, Ballymacarbry, Carrick-On-Suir and Kilmanahan were affected on Wednesday night due to a build up of pressure. Supply was restored to most areas by lunchtime on Thursday.

ESB crews across Waterford, supported by crews from Northern Ireland Electricity and ESB contractors, made massive inroads in the efforts to restore power to homes disconnected by storms in recent days, often working in dangerous and challenging conditions. Denis Cambridge, ESB Divisional Manager for the South, said it was one of the biggest clean up operations he had ever experienced.

“In addition to faults on the medium and low voltage networks, which are a relatively common feature of very stormy conditions in Ireland, the high voltage transmission system was also badly damaged due to the sheer force of the wind. High voltage transmission lines and stations at both 110kv and 38kv were affected. At the peak of the crisis, approximately a quarter of all 110kv stations and a third of 38kv stations were off the system in the worst affected areas. To put this in context, each 38kv station feeds the equivalent population of a small town of 7,500 people.”

Mr Cambridge reassured the public that restoration efforts were continuing and there had been a huge increase in the level of resources deployed by ESB Networks, though availability of materials and daylight hours remained constraining factors.

Michelle Clancy

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