When the calm waters turned against us

Communities are made up of many factors. The teams that represent us. The societies we form for the betterment of us all. The hostelries where we gather in sorrow and joy...and the businesses that light up our streets; that sponsor our football teams, that give employment to our teenagers, that provide us with the goods and services we need.

And when these places suffer, through a downturn or a recession or just sheer bad commercial luck, we feel their loss. This week, the village of Clarinbridge is feeling the pain of the damage wreaked upon it last Monday morning.

The babbling brook that charms its way through the village, turned against it, carried a surge of water that engulfed the retail units that now define the village; those treacherous currents almost took one person’s life, but certainly robbed many livelihoods.

We associate water wth cleanliness and often it has those characteristics — but when it works against you, it pollutes, it carries the foulest of detritus, it destroys; it uproots foundations and leaves them damp and mouldy. It lifts floorboards, the sinew of timber no match for its unstoppable travel. It halts electricity and blows fuses; it knocks off ridges and destroys contents.

Tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of euro of stock and fittings destroyed in the matter of minutes.

We are not accustomed to sudden natural disaster in this country. We don’t sit on a geological fault; there are no volcanoes lurking in our mountain ranges, our land doesn’t slide with any great frequency.

Yet, now we are prone to the suddenness of water attacks. Our lakes and rivers and coasts, to which we look for enjoyment and beauty, turn against us with a ferocity unknown. Now, it is happening in places that we do not expect it to. The desperation of the business owners interviewed this week is distressing.

Their life’s work destroyed in moments just six or seven weeks out from Christmas. They will rebuild and decorate and replace the goods as best they can, with whatever insurance cover they can, but it is still incumbent on us all to support them as much as we can. Whether it be in Clarinbridge or in any of our places damaged by wind and rain.

What will forever be here though is the fear that all affected will now hold. They will look to the skies with more interest, be more attuned to the forecast than the rest of us, because they have experienced the trauma of being on the receiving end of the way our weather is going.

This new anxiety perhaps the one permanent legacy of the storm.


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