Chal­leng­ing con­di­tions in the up­lands

Wicklow People (Arklow) - - NEWS -

THE re­cent snow­fall pre­sented dif­fi­cul­ties for ev­ery­one and com­mu­ni­ties lo­cated in the Wick­low up­lands were par­tic­u­larly hard hit.

Bliz­zard con­di­tions brought snow drifts mea­sur­ing up to three me­tres in places lead­ing to blocked roads, lanes and en­trances. Many res­i­dents found them­selves trapped in their homes, some with­out ad­e­quate sup­plies, while oth­ers were un­able to at­tend med­i­cal ap­point­ments.

For the up­land farm­ing com­mu­nity, the snow – which many be­lieve was worse than in 1982 – could not have come at a worse time, with lamb­ing sea­son in full swing. Other farm­ers were faced with the loss of live­stock while other still strug­gled be­cause of dif­fi­cul­ties get­ting milk col­lected.

Ac­cord­ing to Conor Hip­well, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Of­fi­cer for the Wick­low Up­lands Coun­cil, the is­sues fac­ing up­land farm­ers as the thaw con­tin­ues are many and var­ied.

‘Due to the road con­di­tions in some ar­eas, col­lec­tion of milk from dairy farms was sus­pended re­sult­ing in stor­age chal- lenges and in some cases milk has had to be dis­posed of,’ said Mr Hip­well.

‘Plum­met­ing tem­per­a­tures saw wa­ter sup­plies to both house­holds and live­stock freeze. Ef­forts to re-es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent sup­ply have been ham­pered this past week as night-time tem­per­a­tures dropped to be­low zero.

‘There are sev­eral re­ports that cat­tle have died dur­ing the ex­treme weather,’ he said. ‘In one par­tic­u­larly aw­ful in­ci­dent, 21 young cows were dis­cov­ered to have died in west Wick­low when large vol­umes of snow was blown into their shed dur­ing the bliz­zard con­di­tions.’

‘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.’

With grass buried un­der snow, it was nec­es­sary to de­liver silage to keep live­stock alive. How­ever, gain­ing ac­cess to cer­tain ar­eas in the up­lands re­mains im­pos­si­ble. And while the thaw has been wel­comed across the coun­try, the melt­ing snow will sat­u­rate the ground, mean­ing fresh grass will con­tinue to be scarce for some time.

Mr Hip­well said that there are fears of fur­ther dam­age to build­ings and struc­tures due to the weight of the snow.

Down­ward pres­sure from heavy snow ly­ing on sheds, barns and out­build­ings, cou­pled with rain and freeze-thaw ac­tion at night mean that col­laps­ing roofs and fall­ing ob­jects re­main a very real dan­ger.

‘There were two fa­tal­i­ties re­lat­ing to re­pair work to out­build­ings af­ter last year’s Hur­ri­cane Ophe­lia and Storm Brian and we would 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.’

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