When a moment of crisis arrived, last Wednesday afternoon, the calm, reassuring men of Carrick on Suir River Rescue made sure we were all in a safe place, without any panic.
The worst flooding 'in living memory' hit Carrick last week and I was in the middle of it. I am one of the lucky ones - the water came inches from my door but did not come inside on Carrick on Suir’s South Quay. My neighbours across the river were not so lucky.
It is 20 years since the Carrick River Suir flood defences were installed and constructed. In that time the river has risen to levels that I am sure would have meant flooding on both quays, several times, but we have remained dry. Last week those walls withstood the challenge thrown at them from the roaring river, but the sheer volume of water, coming down the river and from the skies, meant that drains and the underwater pumps just couldn’t seem to take the stress. On the Carrickbeg side we held our collective breaths and watched as the muddy water inched closer to our doors. On the ‘Carrickmór’ side the water inundated the North Quay and even closed the main Carrick to Clonmel road along the Well Road, by the fire station and Treacy Park. The Mill River, which runs between Davin Park and Mill Street, into the River Suir, broke its banks. Even the roadway at Dove Hill was closed by deep, surface water on several occasions (albeit from a different source).
Mill Street residents were some of the first to be affected. They were evacuated from their homes on Tuesday night last. Passing by when the flood waters had receded a ‘cot’ fishing boat was seen sitting in the middle of the roadway. A sight I am reliably informed not seen in that area since the 1960s.
Another shocking sight on Wednesday morning was flood waters lapping half way up Bridge Street. Residents of the town from higher and drier areas flocked to see the amazing sight. Something that the younger of us were told had not happened since the 60s or even as far back as the 1940s!
There may not have been panic, but on Wednesday evening there was certainly fear among some people of the town, who had never seen the river in such severe flood, that the Old Bridge was under pressure from the force of the water coming down the river. The water level was so high barely any of the arches could still be seen and while it was closed to traffic people were even afraid to walk over it. But the bridge, older than Columbus’ discovery of America, stood firm and the people of the town were relieved to wake up New Year’s Eve and hear it was safe.
Homes, schools and businesses have been affected, not just along the quays but also areas like Lower Ballylynch (where residents of 20 years were evacuated for the first time) and Ash Park.
However in the midst of the devastation and worry this crisis has brought out the best in the community. The River Rescue, even though their own base on the North Quay was one of the first premises to flood, worked tirelessly to bring residents to dry safety. Council crews and civil defence, and even the Defence Forces were called on to help. Especially last Wednesday evening when the river was at its highest and indicators upstream caused an alert that there could be a surge in the river and if so it would, for the first time, come over the walls in Carrick on Suir.
Families, friends and neighbours rallied to help move belongings upstairs when homes were threatened, to fill sandbags for protection, to offer words of comfort and support, and to take in those who had to or were advised to leave their own homes. As the flood waters receded, this week, even more amazing goodwill could be seen when a group of young people and businesses rallied to help with the clean up. (See our Carrick on Suir News pages for more.) Some weather forecasts predict it could be two more weeks before the weather patterns pass and all flooding danger dissipates. What is certain, however, is that there has to be a serious review of Carrick’s flood defences and drainage systems, why they failed and what can be done to strengthen them for the future.