by Richard Davies floodlist and Karen O'Regan
Homes and schools were evacuated after flash floods in County Galway, western Ireland on 2 September 2020. The flooding came after heavy rainfall overnight, 1-2 September, caused rivers including the Owenglin River to break their banks. The coastal town of Clifden was particularly badly affected. Local observers said the speed at which the flooding occurred in the town was unprecedented. Fire and Rescue Service evacuated a number of people from approximately 17 properties in Clifden. Police said flooding from the Owenglin river caused temporary closure of parts of Clifden town. Galway County Council said that at least six roads in the area were closed. Most were reopened to traffic later on 2 September.
Rainfall and Warnings
The weather station at Connemara National Park Automatic, located in near Letterfrack, around 8km north east of Clifden, recorded 60mm of rain in a few hours early on 02 September.
In a statement of 2 September, Galway County Council said:
“Met Éireann issued a Status Yellow Rainfall Warning for Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal on the 1st September 2020... The warning did not extend to Galway, however the weather system pushed south into the Galway resulting in a period of high Intensity Rainfall in the Connemara area from 10pm last night to 8am this morning where up to 50mm of rainfall was recorded. This resulted in a surge in rivers causing a series of flooding events on roads in the Connemara area with the town of Clifden significantly impacted by heavy flooding from the Owenglin River.”
Copernicus EMS Maps
The Copernicus Emergency Management Service was activated in Rapid Mapping mode on 02 September (EMSR460), to provide satellite maps of the areas affected by the flooding event.
Flood Relief Scheme
The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD, visited flood-hit areas of Clifden on 2 and 3 September.
Minister O’Donovan said:
“It is only when you see the damage that you can fully appreciate the devastation caused to this community. I wish to assure local residents of the support from government to assist in the recovery of those affected and our commitment to working with Galway County Council to progress the Flood Relief Scheme for the town... The OPW, in partnership with Local Authorities, is working to deliver a significant planned programme of flood relief schemes, and this €1 billion investment will ensure that this and future generations will no longer live with the risk, fear and impact from flooding.”
The State of Flood Forecasting in Ireland
Following extensive flooding in the winter of 2015/2016, the Government of Ireland decided to establish a National Flood Forecast and Warning Service (NFFWS) to forecast for fluvial and coastal floods. The operational element of the NFFWS, a Flood Forecast Centre (FFC) is to be implemented by Met Éireann (The Irish Meteorological Service), while the Office of Public Works will provide guidance and standards.
Stage 1 will involve the development of fluvial flood forecasting models at a National and Catchment level. Ireland has 36 such hydrometric areas and catchment models will be built for each of these. A review of fluvial models and integrator systems was undertaken by Met Éireann, and the HYPE model was selected for the operational fluvial model for the FFC.
It is expected that a non-operational trial of the FCC will commence in Q3 2021.