Challenging conditions in the uplands
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.’