Some like it hot: Sun, sea and rocketing sales
Ireland sizzled in the heat this week, as the mercury rose above 32 degrees. Drink sales rocketed, home holidays boomed and outdoorsy types made hay as the sun shone. KIM BIELENBERG and JOHN MEAGHER report
By the middle of this week, the weather in Ireland was so hot that the gorillas and the orangutans in Dublin Zoo climbed to the tops of the trees to catch a breeze. They were the lucky ones. In offices and other workplaces across the country, employees sweltered — longing for a cool evening sitting on a garden terrace, swimming along a seashore or taking a dip in a lake.
Motorists in their cars could hardly believe what they were seeing as the temperature gauges on dashboards soared over 32 degrees. In these sultry conditions, the air along the roads shimmered — and the tar surface melted in some places.
Just as Storm Emma, the blizzard event of early March, created a frenzy as householders stocked up with sliced pan, the June 2018 heatwave has created another form of weather mania.
This time it has mostly been an occasion for celebration, unless you are a farmer worried about you fodder — or your water supply is about to run dry.
In this country, we do not like to deny ourselves an opportunity to drink — and the heatwave seems to have encouraged us to quench our thirst by taking to the bottle, or the beachside can.
Figures supplied to Review from Tesco for this week show sales of beer have surged by 62pc, and sales of cider are up 116pc.
Those who like to celebrate the high temperatures with a glass of fizz on the patio have pushed sales of Prosecco up by 110pc, while sun worshippers are also quaffing gallons of gin in the heat (up 124pc).
No wonder so many are waking up the following morning with sunburn and a hangover.
According to Met Éireann forecaster Joanna Donnelly, a heatwave is now defined in Ireland as five consecutive days with temperatures over 25°C.
That is what she forecast on Friday of last week, as she saw on the charts blue skies stretching out in front of her until this weekend and beyond.
She could see an anti-cyclone moving up from the Portuguese islands further south in the Atlantic, and she dubbed this weather system the “Azores High”.
“The weather has been good for nearly all of May and June, apart from Storm Hector giving us a kick up the butt,” Donnelly says. “At the same time, farmers have a lot less rainfall than they could do with.”
The weather may have been glorious this week, but Joanna was avoiding the sunshine completely, having had a skin cancer — a basal cell carcinoma — removed six years ago.
The meteorologist likens this hot spell to the long hot summer of 1995 when the mercury rose over 25°C on 27 days in Kilkenny — and the Carlow temperature hit 31.5°C at its peak.
She also compares the present heatwave to 1976, the summer of the great drought.
“I was five in 1976, but I remember it,” says Donnelly. “We were on a camping holiday in Spanish Point, and we all got burned to a crisp.
“I am fairly confident that’s how I got skin cancer,” she says. Since she had her cancer removed, she has not gone out in the sun at all.
BOOST FOR HOTELS
The heatwave could not have come at a better time for Irish hotels, particularly those in coastal areas.
Bookings for foreign getaways may have soared in the first half of the year as holidaymakers booked during our bleak winter, but the heatwave has compensated for this as a growing number of Irish holidaymakers book hotels and coastal properties for short breaks.
Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) members report that the fine weather has seen bookings surge in recent weeks.
Paul Diver of the Sandhouse Hotel on the sea at Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal has been delighted by the hot spell, as families flock to the beach.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant after such a long winter. People are coming to the seaside in droves. They are just packing up and coming.
“Our accommodation sales have rocketed over the past few weeks. Normally at this time of year, we would be half full but we are full every night.”
Paul hopes that with a long spell of good weather, people will think twice about a foreign holiday. This week at Rossnowlagh, busloads of primary school kids arrived on the beach — taken by their teachers as a treat to mark the end of the school year.
“They don’t need phones or Wi-Fi. All the children want is a bucket and spade to build sand castles — and to splash around in the water.”
The hot weather has also been a boon to the Shannon boatman ‘Viking’ Mike McDonnell, as he takes passengers on cruises from Athlone into Lough Ree.
The boats are full, and he has taken down the front roof of the boat because there is no prospect of rain.
“It is incredible the difference it creates in people’s moods — everybody’s polite to one another.”
Viking Mike is now part of the scenery on the lake and the swans know him so well that they come to feed out of his hand.
The elephants (at Dublin Zoo) love covering themselves in this thick muck, which is rich in minerals, and it acts as a kind of sunblock
WATER FOR BIRDS
Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland says the heatwave has had an effect on bird life.
“Some birds have done well in the good weather — when you have warm conditions, it is good for insects and they are a source of food for many birds.
“At the moment we are advising people to leave out water for birds, because streams may have dried up.”
The temperature rises have been so dramatic that dress codes have been relaxed, even among the fusty denizens of the legal fraternity in the Four Courts.
A notice in the Barrister’s Tea Room announced that lawyers would be given special dispensation to remove their jackets, just this once.
Workplace consultant Peter Cosgrove says companies need to loosen their dress codes in the heat, and not insist that men wear ties all the time. “Companies need to change their policies. A lot of companies no longer require their staff to wear ties any more unless, perhaps they are going to a meeting with a customer,” he says.
In other workplaces, staff may have to wear particular clothing such as overalls — for health and safety reasons.
“There is very little you can do about that — but they should be given more breaks and have a good supply of water,” says Cosgrove.
The former director at CPL recruitment says the temperature in workplaces was one of the biggest causes of complaint among employees.
He says some offices, particularly on top floors, have inadequate fans and air conditioning for this type of weather.
He suggests that when the temperatures get uncomfortable, some employees should be allowed to work from home, if that is feasible, and employers should adapt, possibly by holding meetings in cooler coffee shops.
Supermarkets also have to adapt to the heat.
They now have sophisticated computer ordering systems, where they can work out demand for certain products by feeding in weather forecasts.
Geoff Byrne, chief operations officer of Tesco Ireland, says the chain can know from historical data how many more products such as strawberries, beer and Coca-Cola they need in the shops with each degree of rising temperature.
The computer was able to work out this week that Tesco stores needed 300pc more suncream, 50pc more burgers for barbecues, and 60pc more sausages. “We feed live information into the system on weather and events such as the World Cup. This ensures reliable product availability,” Byrne says.
This week, the supermarket chain has sold 3 million litres of water, with demand soaring in some areas as customers prepare for possible cuts to mains supplies.
While the heatwave may be a cause of celebration across much of the country, in some areas farmers fretted about the dry spell affecting grass quality for livestock.
And most of all, they worried about water supplies being cut off — with a typical dairy cow requiring 120 litres of water per day.
The Longford farmer and author of The Cow
Book, John Connell, feels fortunate that the River Soran flows through his land.
“The river is very low at the moment and farmers will need some rain soon,” says Connell. He says the fine weather has been good for making hay. Although the heatwave has given rise to concerns among many farmers, Connell feels grateful that he lives in the countryside during the good weather.
“Yesterday, I was driving along the M50 in Dublin and I thought to myself that this is torture.
“Living in the country, I can have a barbecue in the evening, go fishing and swim in the local lake.”
As the temperatures soared during the week, there was no shortage of officials offering nannyish advice. Irish Rail helpfully handed out bottles of water to commuters and advised passengers to “wear comfortable clothes and not to sit in direct sunlight”.
Even the elephants in Dublin Zoo were protected as keepers created a wallow, so that they could roll around in a pool of muddy sand.
Gerry Creighton, the operations manager who has worked in the zoo since he was 15, says: “The elephants love covering themselves in this thick muck, which is rich in minerals, and it acts as a kind of sunblock.”
Like many other outdoor attractions, the zoo has enjoyed a surge in the number of visitors in the good weathers. As they looked at the elephants enjoying their pool party in Dublin temperatures of 28°C, many visitors must have been envious.
All case studies in conversation with John Meagher
Surf’s up: Bernadette and Craig Butler in Tramore.