As the snow begins to melt, the full impact of Storm Emma and the ‘Beast from the East’ to the Wicklow Upland region will become known, however the individual stories from the region’s communities tells a tale of hardships with many households becoming isolated, and in some cases without adequate supplies of food, fuel, medicine and unable to attend scheduled medical appointments.
For some, they still find they are struggling to commute with any sense of normality with journeys involving trekking considerable distances and the use of 4 x 4s or farm machinery – for the elderly and those with mobility issues, this is far from ideal and they remain largely housebound.
For the upland farming community, it arrived at the busiest time of year with lambing season fully underway, which is when pregnant ewes and young lambs are at their most vulnerable and require constant attention.
Snow drifts which reached heights in excess of 3 metres in places, blocked the upland national road network, private lanes and driveways and according to many, levels that fell were far worse than that of the snowfall experienced in 1982.
A huge clearance operation involving the county council, private contractors, farmers, local resources, and from today, members of the defence forces, was put in place and is likely to continue for some time.
Many roads completely impassible a few days ago, have now reopened, although in a number of locations, only wide enough for a single vehicle.
This has lead to a request from local communities, that those searching for snow or ‘Snow Tourists’ as they have become known – avoid visiting the area till the clearance operation has progressed further.
Due to the road conditions in some areas, collection of milk from dairy farms was suspended resulting in storage challenges and in some cases; milk has had to be disposed of. Glanbia has offered to compensate farmers 20 cent per litre of milk lost as a result of the non-collection of supplies during the extreme weather .
In the days leading up to Storm Emma, and over the course of the severe weather event, plummeting temperatures saw water supplies to both households and livestock freeze and with the nighttime temperatures forecast to dip below zero again this week, it will add frustration to the efforts to reestablish permanent supply.
There are now several reports that cattle have died during the extreme weather, in one particularly awful incident, twenty one young cows were discovered to have died in west Wicklow when large volumes of snow was blown into their shed during the blizzard conditions. In Co. Wexford, the collapse of buildings due to the weight of snow on their roof has resulted in further losses. Damage to machinery and buildings throughout the affected areas is likely to come at a considerable cost.
Unfortunately, as not all sheep could be housed during the storm, many farmers are anticipating losses to their sheep flock but say it is too early to assess the full impact until the snowdrifts have thawed.
For the livestock that were unable to be housed, silage and feed is essential in place of the snow covered grass yet access to lands remains virtually impossible in some areas. As the snow disappears, the ground becomes saturated with moisture and fresh grass will remain scarce for some time.
With heavy snow lying on sheds, barns and outbuildings, the downward pressure – combined with the rain and the freeze-thaw action at night, collapse and falling objects remain a serious threat. There were two fatalities relating to repair work to outbuildings after last year’s Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Brian and Wicklow Uplands Council advise that any inspections and repair work – especially when height is involved – are done with caution and safety in mind.
There is also an additional concern of localised flooding if there is a rapid thaw and Wicklow County Council are monitoring the situation closely.
While this has been a particularly difficult time for the farming community, many farmers with diggers and heavy machinery have been busy clearing roads and driveways throughout their local area. Social Media is full of praise from local communities who found their assistance invaluable and the Wicklow Uplands Council acknowledge with gratitude, their large contribution.
Due to the hazardous road conditions, the SUAS workshop and information evening scheduled to take place this Thursday (the 8th) has been rescheduled for Tuesday the 13th at 8pm at the Brockagh Centre in Laragh.
Further information on the SUAS project can be obtained from Brian Dunne, Co-oridnater at Wicklow Uplands Council on 01-2818406 and [email protected]
Information and regular updates and will also feature on www.wicklowuplands.ie