Year in Review: Storm Ophelia: Valuable lessons from the eye of the storm

Aisling Kiernan

Reporter:

Aisling Kiernan

Email:

aisling.kiernan@longfordleader.ie

Storm Ophelia

Storm Ophelia brought Co Longford to a standstill back in October

It’s the time again when we all look back at the year that’s been.

And it has been an eventful 12 months, that is for sure!


What sticks out most of all when I recall 2017 to mind is Storm Ophelia.
She brought the country to a standstill and wreaked havoc across Co Longford.


Three lives were lost - two in the south of Ireland, the third in Co Louth, and roads were blocked because of fallen trees; businesses closed their doors, busses and trains stopped running and we were told the safest place to be was indoors.


The storm even damaged sheds, houses, sports facilities and vehicles.
And, while it is fair to concede that Co Longford wasn't quite as badly battered as Kerry, Cork and other coastal counties, Longford town, Granard and Ballymahon came to a standstill with one local photographer capturing the scene in the county town and describing it most aptly as a “ghost town”.


Michael Keegan from Ardagh had prided himself on the many beautiful trees on his land, but in the aftermath of Storm Ophelia, he lost two particular trees that had stood in all their glory on the surrounding acreage for hundreds of years.


He spoke to the Leader about what happened in the storm’s wake.
The trees - an Oak and a Beech - had stood tall and proud in south Longford for centuries, and their roots, Michael explained, shared the same soil, so when one was weakened and battered by the storm, so was the other.


And, similarly, when one fell over, it took the other down with it, meaning that both trees fell victim to the biggest storm to batter Ireland since the 1960s.


And while the loss of life cannot be compared to the loss of trees, Storm Ophelia was not choosy - she took out whatever came into her path.


Meanwhile, Longford Co Council spent a week repairing the damage and reopening roads; ESB sent round the clock crews out to restore power, and schools, businesses and farms began operating as normal again.


It was an unprecedented time - yes we have had storms, torrential rain, flooding, big freezes etc, in this country over the years - but never has our government come out and warned people before, to stay indoors because of impending adverse weather conditions.


Most people did heed the advice and while we will all remember the three people that died during the storm, and their grieving families, this Christmas, experts are adamant that staying indoors and taking all the advice that was dished out on board saved lives during Ophelia.


This, surely is something we can all be grateful for, as we head into a New Year with dreams and hopes and aspirations for better days ahead.
Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful 2018!

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