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The floods at Washington Street on November 20, 2009. Pic: Brian Lougheed
The floods at Washington Street on November 20, 2009. Pic: Brian Lougheed
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

The day Cork flooded. Timeline of how the city was submerged

THE PRELUDE

November 1 

Flooding on Carrigrohane Road and the Lee Fields area in November 2009. Picture Denis Minihane.
Flooding on Carrigrohane Road and the Lee Fields area in November 2009. Picture Denis Minihane.

● THE first in a series of fast-moving deep Atlantic weather fronts cross over Ireland. Massive downpours of rain are recorded on November 1 and 9 and from November 16 to 19 and again on the 21st.

● As a result, record-breaking rainfall is measured at most weather stations including Sherkin Island where almost three times the average amount of rain fell.

● The rainfall has a saturating effect on the ground. As a result, 82% of the rainfall in the run-up to November 19 runs straight into the Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra reservoirs.

November 11 

● Cork sees more than 17mm of rainfall in a matter of hours resulting in flash floods in Kinsale, Carrigaline and Passage West. A wave of water gushes down Glen Hill in Glenbrook just outside Passage, destroying 12 cars and trapping residents in their homes.

The aftermath of the flooding at the Glen, Glenbrook, just over a week before the floods that struck Cork city. Picture: Paddy Barker
The aftermath of the flooding at the Glen, Glenbrook, just over a week before the floods that struck Cork city. Picture: Paddy Barker

● From November 10 to 15, water levels at the Inniscarra Dam are maintained at between 49 and 49.5 metres using the turbines and some spilling. The Inniscarra Dam has an operational height of 50.9 metres.

November 15 

● Heavy rain continues to fall across the South West flooding parts of Monkstown, Carrigaline, Midleton the Old Youghal Road and the Lower Glanmire Road.

November 16 

● On Wednesday morning, water levels in the Carrigadrohid reservoir rise quickly to 64.7 metres.

The dam’s height is 65.2 metres. The ESB begin spilling water from the dam into the Inniscarra reservoir.

● The ESB also begins discharging 150 cubic metres of water every second from the Inniscarra Dam.

This is considered to be the maximum amount without bursting the banks of the Lee below the dam.

The Inniscarra Dam. In November 2009 enough rain fell in three days to fill the reservoir behind the dam five times over. Picture Denis Minihane.
The Inniscarra Dam. In November 2009 enough rain fell in three days to fill the reservoir behind the dam five times over. Picture Denis Minihane.

November 17 

● The ESB continues discharging 150 cubic metres of water every second from the Inniscarra and spilling of water at the Carrigadrohid Dam continues.

November 18 

● The ESB discharges 150 cubic metres of water every second from Inniscarra. Spilling of water from Carrigadrohid is stopped to reduce levels in the Inniscarra Reservoir.

THE FLOOD

November 19 

● At 2am on Thursday morning the spilling of water at the Carrigadrohid Dam recommences due to heavy rain.

● Virtually all areas of Cork city and county are affected by more localised overnight flooding with some motorists in west Cork having to abandon their vehicles during the morning trip to work.

● 11.30am — The ESB contact Cork City Council and advised that the discharge level would be 150m3/s, with the possibility that it would reach 300m3/s later in the day.

Flooding was expected at Carrigrohane Road and the Western suburbs.

● The City Council contacts the Kingsley Hotel, the County Hall, Coca-Cola and other businesses along the Carrigrohane Road warning them of flooding.

Flood at Liberty Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed
Flood at Liberty Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed

● 2.30pm — City council issues a flood warning by email to staff and to its standard external list which included local media and city businesses.

● 5pm — Inniscarra Dam informed the council that the discharge level would now reach 300 cubic metres per second.

● By now Bandon is completely flooded. All roads into the town from all directions are cut off.

Flood at Liberty Street and North Main Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed 
Flood at Liberty Street and North Main Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed 

Floodwater reached nine feet at some locations. It is the worst flood in the town’s 400-year history.

● Skibbereen is also cut off.

Emergency services move in to rescue 15 people from the COPE Foundation on the Mill Road, which was under almost a metre of water.

● 5.30pm — Inniscarra Dam informed the council that discharge levels would be greater than previously anticipated.

● The ESB close the sluice gates at the Carrigadrohid Dam to get the maximum amount of storage from the reservoir behind the dam.

The flooded reception in the Kingsley Hotel at Victoria Cross. Picture: Richard Mills
The flooded reception in the Kingsley Hotel at Victoria Cross. Picture: Richard Mills

● A spillway built into dam following the flood in 1986 then comes into operation for the first time in its history. Carrigadrohid reservoir is now completely full with all water entering the reservoir moving directly into the Inniscarra Reservoir.

By 6pm a record 520 cubic metres of water was leaving the reservoir. In three days enough water flows into Carrigadrohid to fill the reservoir four times.

● In Cork city 30 top of the range Audi cars are removed from the basement of the Kingsley and brought to higher ground. The cars, including a €140,000 R8 were to be test driven by the public at a showcase event the following day.

The entrance to the totally flooded underground car park at the Kingsley Hotel at Victoria Cross. Picture: Richard Mills
The entrance to the totally flooded underground car park at the Kingsley Hotel at Victoria Cross. Picture: Richard Mills

● 8.40pm — High tide in Cork city passes without major incident. There is some flooding at Sundays Well and at Carrigrohane Road but none at Grenville Place or County Hall.

● 10pm Water levels behind the Inniscarra Dam reach a peak of 50.85 metres, just five centimetres below the maximum height of the dam.

For the next five hours, the ESB releases between 542m3 and 547m3 of water every second.

In three days, enough water enters the Inniscarra reservoir to fill it five times over.

● 10.10pm — The council contacts the Dam as Waterworks staff on the Lee Road are concerned about rising water levels near the plant.

● 11pm — The Carrigrohane Straight Road is now under heavy flood. The City Council mobilises the Army to gain access to a halting site at Carrigrohane Road.

● 11.28pm — The Civil Defence is mobilised.

Flood at Sheares Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed 
Flood at Sheares Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed 

● 12 Midnight — The Lee Road Waterworks is shut down after flooding. The station is used to pump drinking water to reservoirs on the city’s northside.

November 20 

● 2am on Friday morning water being discharged from the Inniscarra Dam peaks at 547m3/s.

● Large volumes of water from the River Shournagh and the River Bride, which join the Lee below Inniscarra also contribute to the flooding.

● The Kingsley Hotel floods. Its underground car park is completely submerged while the ground floor is also flooded. Its 232 guests are evacuated. Across the road the County Hall floods.

● 3.56am — The Quay Wall at Grenville Place collapses.

Victoria Cross under several feet of water. Picture: Richard Mills
Victoria Cross under several feet of water. Picture: Richard Mills

● The roadway close to the Angler’s Rest is washed away.

● 7am — At City Hall, the City Manager Joe Gavin calls the first Crisis Management Team Meeting for 11am.

● 8am Flood water levels at Cork city reach their peak.

● The Carrigrohane Road, Victoria Cross, parts of UCC, the entire Mardyke, Washington Street, the Grand Parade, North Main Street, Wandesford Quay, Lancaster Quay, Sundays Well and the Sarsfield Road Roundabout are all underwater.

Local residents being rescued by tractor and trailer at Victoria Cross. Picture: Richard Mills
Local residents being rescued by tractor and trailer at Victoria Cross. Picture: Richard Mills

● Residents and businesses in the Middle Parish are badly affected. Residents wake up to a metre of water in their homes.

● At UCC, 29 of the college’s buildings are flooded including the Glucksman Gallery. 2,000 students are forced to evacuate their accommodations.

● Across Cork County, large towns including Bandon, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Bantry are cut off.

● The weather on Friday morning improves. However, large parts of Cork city, county and other parts of the country remain underwater.

● Reservoirs supplying water to hold less than a day’s supply and water begins to stop flowing into people’s taps.

● The council decides to evacuate residents from Grenville Place.

THE AFTERMATH

Friday, November 20 

● Cork City Council links the city centre water pipes to the county’s supply, however homes north of the river remain without water.

● 24 water distribution points are established providing fresh water. This figure eventually rises to 40.

Members of the Army Defence forces travelling at irresponsible speed through the floodwaters on Sheares Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed
Members of the Army Defence forces travelling at irresponsible speed through the floodwaters on Sheares Street. Pic: Brian Lougheed

● 8pm: The council places 2,000 tons of rock at Grenville Place to breach the wall.

● 10pm: The Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, arrives in Cork to examine the damage.

Saturday, November 21 

● With floodwaters receding, many residents and business owners get the chance to return to their properties and examine the damage.

Monday, November 23 

● The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, visits Cork.

Tuesday, November 24 

● As the clean up continues, the Mercy University Hospital’s Accident and Emergency reopens after closing on Friday night.

Wednesday, November 25 

● Members of the public begin calling for an enquiry into why the city was so badly affected by the floods.

A county council worker distributing water amongst people at Ballyvolane shopping centre. Picture: Cillian Kelly
A county council worker distributing water amongst people at Ballyvolane shopping centre. Picture: Cillian Kelly

Thursday, November 26 

● The council begins removing huge amounts of flood-damaged furniture and household goods.

The Grand Parade under flood waters. Pic: Brian Lougheed
The Grand Parade under flood waters. Pic: Brian Lougheed

Friday, November 27 

● Water is restored to the city’s reservoirs after emergency repairs are made to the Lee Road Water Treatment Plant.