RESIDENTS and business owners in flood-prone areas of Limerick and Clare are bracing themselves as water levels on the Shannon are set to peak by the weekend.
Met Éireann also issued a further weather warning as 35mm of rain – almost a third of the average monthly rainfall for December – was due to fall on parts of the country.
High-risk riverside areas such as Clonlara, Montpelier and Castleconnell are on alert as residents were told to prepare for the worst flooding in 20 years.
The Irish Defence Forces were deployed to assist with flood defences in Clonlara in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as a number of homes in the Springfield area were cut off due to floodwater.
Limerick City and County Council received confirmation from the ESB on Wednesday afternoon of its decision not to change the discharge level at the Parteen Weir from its current level of 375 cubic meters per second (cumecs).
However, the local authority warned that water levels along the lower River Shannon at Montpelier, Castleconnell and the Mountshannon Road, Lisnagry are continuing to rise and that they could elevate further during the next few days.
The council also indicated that road closures are expected in affected areas.
On Wednesday, members of the Defence Forces arrived in Clonlara to deliver sandbags after Clare County Council sought their assistance.
Water levels rose dramatically on Tuesday evening in the Lower River Shannon south of Parteen Weir resulting in the encroachment of floodwaters on a small number of properties in Springfield, Clonlara.
A number of roads are impassable in the area, including the main road from Mount Catherine (DeCourcy) Bridge to Cottage Cross.
Several properties have been isolated and the affected homeowners will be assisted with access to and from their properties by Clare Fire and Rescue Service and Clare Civil Defence.
Local councillor Michael Begley told the Limerick Post: “The main artery through Springfield in Clonlara is no longer accessible by car. The army were here filling and delivering sandbags to the five houses that have been cut off .
“A further four houses that are most at risk have been secured in so far as is possible. If the water reaches 2009 levels, there are another seven or eight houses at risk.”
Upriver on the Limerick side of the Shannon, the Irish Red Cross has established an emergency drinking water collection point at Montpelier.
“Bottled water is in position. The Limerick Red Cross organisation is on alert and communication with the local authority is ongoing,” said a Red Cross spokesperson.
Limerick City and County Council is anticipating flooding in Castleconnell, Montpelier and the Mountshannon Road in Lisnagry.
Local authority staff are distributing more than 2,000 sandbags in the flood-prone areas and are erecting flood defences, with pumping operations underway between Montpelier and Castleconnell.
A flood boom, which is a large inflatable wall, was also installed in Castleconnell to channel floodwater away from the village.
The flood defences were put in place after the ESB confirmed on Monday that it is to increase the release of water from the Parteen Weir from 315 cubic meters per second (cumecs) to 375 cumecs.
Met Éireann also issued weather warnings for the West as 20-35mm of additional rainfall was forecast for Clare, Connacht, Donegal and Kerry on Wednesday.
According to the National Emergency Coordination Centre, there is a “high risk” of flooding along the Shannon region from Limerick city to Athlone over the coming days, while the OPW warned that river water levels would rise by about half a metre.
Elsewhere, the government has pledged €15 million in financial aid for individuals and business affected by this week’s flooding, and has promised to fast-tract the funding to ensure that those in need receive it as soon as possible.
Clare TD Michael McNamara has called for flood protection infrastructure to be put in place in East Clare “as a matter of urgency”.
The Labour Party deputy said that as a result of climate change “catastrophic flooding is expected more frequently and flood protection infrastructure must be put in place to mitigate against this”.
“The 2009 flooding was regarded as a hundred year event yet it has now been repeated scarcely six years later”, he said.