El and High Water

Storm Eleanor hit Galway hard yesterday, and it came as more of a surprise than it should have done. The river Corrib was in full flow, there was a high tide and a strong onshore wind – the typical combination for Galway floods. The speed of the floodwater caught everyone by surprise – there were no stockpiles of sandbags in the city centre, though the flood barrier by the Spanish Arch was in place. The barrier was of limited use, since water simply flowed around it as the flood water level continued to rise. In Salthill, there was the usual scenes of cars stranded in the Claude Toft car-park, despite the permanent warning sign.

Listening to the radio this morning, I was surprised to hear people describing the flooding as unprecedented. It wasn’t – the water hit almost the same level in 2014 and impacted the same areas (this slideshow shows pictures of the January 2014 flooding). what is worrying is that, unlike 2014, the weather conditions were not as severe. As can be seen in the 2014 pictures, that storm ripped up Salthill. Also, the tide was not at its maximum level. Which means that worse flooding is inevitable in the future (and that’s before the rising sea-level  is factored in). These floods are becoming the norm, and sooner or later, the city is going to have to make some hard decisions about how to handle them. In particular, it will not be possible to defend some of the premises that are on the sea-front – both in town and in Salthill. Twice in 4 years, sea-water has brimmed over the Docks and flooded the surrounding streets. Bearing that in mind, the proposal to build a large office complex on the vacant Docks site (where the old Shell oil tanks used to be) does not seem like such a great idea, unless the site is elevated. Similarly, the city’s decision to build the  yet-to-open art cinema on the Dock Road doesn’t seem so great either – had it been opened last night, punters would have had to wade out of it.
The map below shows the streets mentioned in the video.