A few weeks ago I posted about the joys of a long dry autumn with lovely golden leaves displayed on the trees. Well, okey, this isn’t New England (or Canada, for that matter!) but it is always lovely and the leaves in many cases are still clinging on for dear life!
But…..it’s Ireland. In November. And the weather has changed to its winter mode – rain. And lots of it. We were spoiled by an almost rain-free summer and autumn, and now we have to break out the raincoats and galoshes (or wellies!) and brave the elements as we venture outdoors. The thing about rain in Ireland is that it doesn’t just fall vertically from the skies – it also falls horizontally, depending on the strength of the wind. Umbrellas are dangerous things to use here – the wind can gust so suddenly that your umbrella canopy ends up looking like a rag draped over a telephone cable!
To make matters worse, the falling leaves were not cleared away by the local authorities so the rainwater drainage systems are blocked by packed leaf litter. Mind you, that never surprises me – our rainwater drainage systems are either Victorian or are still built according to Victorian designs. Clearly Civil Engineering education in Ireland hasn’t caught up with the twentieth century – let alone the twenty-first!
I admit I have often concluded that the first thing Irish civil engineering students learn in class is ‘It’s Ireland, and it rains here, so there’s nothing we can do about it!’ Er, learning to drain off excessive rainwater would be a nice start! Flooding affected an arc from Dungarvan in County Waterford to Dundalk in County Louth. In County Cork we found the main Dublin-Cork motorway was flooded despite the special surface texture designed to absorb rainwater and percolate it into drains!
To make matters worse, on my trip to Limerick on Thursday 13th November I could see that many fields had standing water in them, suggesting that the ground was thoroughly saturated. This could lead to further trouble for farmers if there is no letup in the rain – remember, Irish farmers leave their livestock outdoors all winter, simply because it is usually mild enough to do so! Other northern European and North American farmers find this a difficult concept, given that they are usually obliged to house livestock indoors during the cold winter weather. If the rain continues, our cattle and sheep will have to be moved to higher well-drained ground to avoid flooding. They will then require a lot of fodder at a very early stage of the winter. The good news, the hay and silage crops were excellent this year – a far cry from the situation in the spring when we had to import feed from France!
On 20th September 2000, the Irish singer Enya released her new hit song called A Day Without Rain. The song was released on the same day that Belmullet in County Mayo recorded over two hundred continuous days of rain! Something tells me that Enya’s song became the unofficial anthem of Belmullet! I fear it may become the anthem for Irish people this November!