Ireland has experienced devastating floods in recent years
which has affected thousands of people
and caused millions of Euros worth of damage.
Nowhere in Ireland has remained untouched by the deluges
now part of our annual weather pattern.
I met with Ray McGrath from the National Weather Centre
to find out how Ireland is being affected.
Ray have we seen changes in our weather patterns in recent years?
Well in the case of rainfall
it looks like there has been an increase in the amount of rainfall
that is falling over Ireland.
And is it more deluges of rain or what's the pattern?
The heavier rainfall events have increased in frequency.
Are we seeing changes in our oceans also?
Yes. The most obvious change is that
the temperatures in the oceans are increasing
and this is leading to more moisture being pushed into the atmosphere.
That of course means that there is a greater potential for more extreme weather.
Of course this is more likely to lead to flooding events.
The east coast is now susceptible to surge events
bringing higher than usual tides
which combine into perfect storm scenarios
such as what happened in 2002.
The way it works is the surge actually sucks up the ocean surface
and this in combination with a wind which may be pumping,
pushing the water towards the coastline
this is what effectively creates the surge conditions.
If this happens to coincide with a high tide,
it obviously worsens it
so you can get a much greater surge effect affecting the coastline
and the research we have done in Met Éireann
it does indeed suggest that in the future
climate change will bring more intense surge events to these coastlines.
Being on the frontline is something Dubliners have known about for a long time.
200 years ago Dublin was a sea port on a wide estuary surrounded by marshland.
We've a long history of reclaiming land that was liable for flooding
but back then the big storm was looked on as a rare event.
Not any more.
The residents of Dublin's East Wall were badly hit in 2002
and have been living in fear of another storm ever since.
Most of it came from the sea originally to that point
but it was a mixture of canal and sea water because
it came up the Liffey, up the canal
and of course once the canal level went too high it overflowed.
It was terrifying for me walking around in it I have to admit
but in saying that, the elderly people and to look at their faces,
and to look at their homes devastated with the dirt five foot up the walls;
it was absolutely horrendous.
We were out of the house for 7 months
had to get the builders in;
floors, walls, furniture everything thrown out, rip it all up.
It wasn't just a matter of drying out stuff, this stuff was destroyed.
Over €6 million has been spent in the risk area on defences
and early warning systems have been put in place
to give the residents the highest levels of alert.
There is a number of defences put out there.
There's a monitor out at the Kish which'll give us advanced warning of the sea
and there's depth warnings in both of the rivers
in the Tolka and in the Liffey which at least is a help.
At least we will know in advance if something is going to happen.
Dublin City Council has an emergency plan coming into force soon.
We have a lot of volunteers in the area,
at the moment we have the church set up in case of an emergency
that we can bring people, particularly the elderly.
It's the elderly and the infirm we need to get out of the area quickly
if we did have another flood.
The changes coming mean rethinking our strategies for everything;
from river and sea defences,
to where we build and live in the future.
Mark Adamson from the OPW
showed me the first line of flood defences for Ringsend
being built on the Dodder by Dublin City Council.
These are flood protection works that we are currently building
to protect against tidal flooding,
such as the very severe event that happened in February 2002
here in Ringsend.
Well the sea level came up the river and spilled over the banks
flooding some areas to a depth of maybe 3 metres
so the wall we are currently leaning on here
is to protect against exactly that kind of flooding.
So all of these houses here were flooded in 2002?
That's right yes.
So what are they actually doing?
Well over here they're currently putting in piles
and they'll be building a defence wall to protect against the high sea levels.
So what sort of work have we got to do in the future
to protect us against what's coming with flooding?
Well we'll obviously keep building flood protection schemes such as these
for areas of significant existing risk.
We're also producing flood maps to identify other areas that are at risk
or that could be at risk if people were to build in them.
The massive development
that has changed the face of our cities over the last 10 years
hides what's happening beneath our feet.
Under the millions of tonnes of concrete,
are water courses now cut off and rivers and streams we've diverted.
Tom Leahy told me about the Dublin City Council strategies
to future-proof the city.
Dublin we've seen some big floods in recent years
are we going to see more floods in Dublin?
Well Duncan, Dublin is located in the floodplain of 3 major rivers.
200 years ago the land we're standing on was once under the sea.
That's just one of the challenges we face.
Over the years Dublin has grown.
It's been intensively developed, houses wherever you see
and we've changed water courses as well.
So each of those poses its own challenge and hazard which we have to deal with.
So how are you going to deal with these sorts of challenges?
Well we have noticed that the weather patterns have changed quite significantly.
We've also noticed the phenomenon called pluvial flooding,
that's a very technical term, the Dutch have a much better name they call it:
"monster rain" - what it means is very heavy monsoon-like rainfall
that falls over a short period of time, will overwhelm any drainage system.
So that's a challenge, one of the challenges we're going to have to deal with.
Is this the sort of flooding we've seen in the last couple of years?
Yes, particularly last August and September
that's exactly what happened to Dublin.
We had 3 floods in 2 months
and the intensities were the sort of recurrence period that would be one in 150 years.
Dublin City Council's new strategy
is being created and funded in tandem with European partners
who face the same problems we do.
The Flood Resilient Cities Programme
follows on from the Safer Programme
and looks to deal with the effects of "monster rain".
Well the sort of things that we can do,
we can look at ways to control water flow at source,
we've also identified the areas that might be at risk
and logically they're close to the coast
and then if we know there is a high risk at a particular time
we can mobilise all the resources of the State,
fire brigade, emergency services, our own City Council personnel.
We can also link in with householders
because everybody has a part to play in making their own property
that little bit more flood resilient.
When the next flood comes
another team ready are Commandant John Moriarty's Civil Defence volunteers.
They'll be on the front line to back up the fire brigade
and I joined them on one of their drills.
We learned a lot from the floods back in 2002
where we didn't have the equipment;
people were going into flooded areas and contaminated water in fire gear
whereas now we have dry suits to protect them and so on.
They've been trained by Dublin Fire Brigade in water awareness;
our boat people obviously are trained in relation to water and so on.
So there's been a lot of training has been going on
over the past number of years
and we've also a lot of vehicles, a lot of four wheel drive vehicles
which are very suitable for the flooding scenarios.
Right guys how's it going there?
There is a way of laying these is there?
There is a way of laying them yeah.
You bring them close to each other first is it?
Yes. It's the first line across and the next ones go in between
and you can see where they cause the seal here.
And that'll totally seal water?
That'll totally seal
and have a look at the door
we went in with a line then right across the front of the lower part
of the lower sandbag as well when we were finished building up.
The fear at the back of my mind is
that we get the combination of torrential rain
with a very high tide and onshore winds
and we get a combination of coastal flooding
and torrential rain and rivers overflowing.
That's kind of a nightmare scenario.
Flooding is a problem we all share throughout Ireland
As an act of nature it can't be totally avoided,
but we can lessen its worst effects.
As we look for the solutions for the future
we should focus on the underlying causes of climate change
that we are currently failing to address.
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