In Nov and Dec 2009, Ireland was hit by extensive floods. Last night, there were floods in Dublin. The damage is probably smaller, but this time a life seems to have been lost.

After the 2009 floods, a number of deficiencies in flood control and emergency management were noted. See Hickey (behind paywall), Oireachtas, Tol. However, as I noted last year, this was not translated into action. More money has been allocated to flood control, but the institutional structures that failed in 2009 have been left unreformed.

In 2009, there were issues with emergency management too. They showed up again last night. There was local flooding from five o’clock onwards, and more rain predicted, but the emergency plan was not invoked until nine o’clock, when river banks had already been burst and with less than one-and-a-half hour to go till high tide. Warnings to the public were late, and little information was provided about what to expect where and when. Twitter was the best source of information, although facts were freely mixed with spoofs, jokes, and bitter disputes about the correct spelling of fliuch.

After the 2009 floods, a number of conferences were organized with speakers from Great Britain on the state of the art in the urban management of pluvial floods. No lessons seem to have been learned.

Anticipation is key in emergency management. If you know where the water will go next, you can move people, goods, and traffic out of harm’s way before damage is done. If all you can do is react, chaos will ensue and damages are unnecessarily high.

29 replies on “#whatthefliuch”

You may need to change the heading of the piece.

You can’t use a “humorous” heading like that and then go to use the possibility of a fatality as the basis for your argument.

[Richard Tol: I did not try to be funny. There is nothing funny about fatal accidents, flooded properties, traffic chaos, or the anxiety of seeing the water rise outside your house or company. Apologies for any misunderstanding. The title is the twitter hash tag under which people self-organized.]

@ RT: “Anticipation is key in emergency management.”

Bí ullamh. Yeah, but ijklmn has a nasty attribute betimes. It flows upwards.

In Clyde Road (Ballsbridge) it flowed back (from a very angry Dodder) via the surfacewater/greywater drains. No sump drains in many garden level (aka: basement) homes. The road surface is barely lower than garden floor levels and many houses have basement rooms which are two or three steps lower again. Reckon a few locations in area are below ‘high tide’ mark.

Residents had no warning. First inkling was at 21.30. My niece called asking to borrow a pump. She had gone downstairs on a ‘hunch’. Knee-high water level in some basement rooms. History of flooding?? No idea. Have to make enquiries.

Brian Snr.

I thought whatthefliuch was good.

Anyway climate change will bring more benefits than losses to the rich world in GDP terms so what is the big deal ? Did I get that right, Richard?

What Goes Up
thats the (very heavily used last night) twitter hashtag which took the place of a coordinated public service response. Worth having a look for realtime crowd sourced information.

“Anticipation is key in emergency management.”
I couldn’t agree more.
It is also important to add that quick/effective communication to people in affected areas is also key to managing the situation.
See http://MapAlerter.com/wexford – Wexford County Council issue highly focused SMS, Email and Phone Call alerts for affected areas for all types of service alert (Flood, Severe Weather, Water Service Disruptions, Road Works, etc).

“Between 2009 and 2010, in an effort to determine the exact Javan rhinoceros population status in Cat Tien, WWF conducted a field survey, using highly trained sniffer dogs from the US to locate rhino dung samples. The results of DNA analysis conducted on the samples, published today in a new WWF report, have confirmed that all of the dung collected in the park belonged to the same rhino, which was found dead shortly after the survey was completed.

Reminded me of the Project Managers who work for the government. The same crap, multiple locations. Always the same story.
Why are so many things run so poorly in Ireland ?

The Naas road, Longmile road and Kylemore road flooded, impassable, no emergency services, car drivers directing traffic, cars stuck in floods,
Will anyone be held to account, no. banks no accountability, City council no accountability. Why do we put up with it?

It may be worth pointing out that local and national govt may not be able to do much due to labour costs of direct staff; or indirect costs due to contractual costs.

@ Philip II

I know what it is.

The hashtag was obviously meant in humour.

There isn’t a lot of tweets there. There seems to be an equal amount using #dubfloods.

It’s a simple mistake to make – but the tone of the heading and the content of the first paragraph jar.

Lighten up. Humur is about incongruity…and the juxtaposition of the fatalist tag, with the death, works just fine. Life is serious, and absurd.

A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes
-Ludwig Wittgenstein

The key point is that once more our overpaid public administration left us down with absolutely no consequence for atrociously poor performance.

MapAlert seems great. It just issued a flood alert for Clones.

@Desmond Brennan

The fatalist tag also reflects on the Irish attitude towards government failure.

@All: Water is a very, very unusual entity. As I said, in some circumstances it flows upward. Very nashty!

Another of its delightful attributes is that it is a lovely conductor of electrons. Hence, a moderate inundation can penetrate all sorts of places – and it loves those ESB and telecoms boxes. Pfffftp, zzzzzz and bang: many communications systems (other than human verbals and hand semaphores) cease. As in; come crashing down. “Now, talk to me!”

You can have all the Twitter you like: it matters not a twat once the fluid level is a mill or so over the top. Lots of comms stuff is ‘underground’. Not that would NOT be below the water table? Surely not?

Wireless broadband and mobiles were ok – as long as the local ESB sub-station remained dry. So a General Alert signal (if we had such) might have helped some folk. But (without a significant forewarning) once the water starts to rise, you only have minutes.

I blame FF 😎

Brian Snr.

Sounds like an Oireachtas inquiry might be in order; nothing like getting at the facts. Think before you vote on Thursday.

Wonder could we do up a quick costing of the floods ?

# A ##### Money spent in immediate response:
2 lives: say 50 more yrs life left each, using NICE reckoner that’s €4m
say 10,000 hours overtime,pay cost €35p/h=€350,000

# B #####Damage from floods:
need to calculate
1) Direct damage
2) Opportunity cost

Would be curious…as it strikes me that long term mitigation of some of the recurrent problems (M/N 7,4,11 and rivers) would likely work out saving money…



Thank you for drawing attention to this.

@What goes up

Also thank you for making the point you made in your first comment.

I am sure both of you have made us all wiser.

Incompetence, maladministration, mismanagement, and a complete failure of the system have added to the total destruction and sadly but thankfully the loss of only 2 lives last night. The Dublin city manager and South Dublin Co.Co manager should hand in their resignation with immediate effect and whoever was responsible for the flood gates in Sandymount remaining closed during last nights disaster should be prosecuted and jailed. For far too long we have put up with this shit in this country, its time it ended.

If that’s what it takes our public policy class to start using C/B analysis and DCF’s…so be it.

But then there’s almost no accountants, economists or finance professionals in public service here…policy seems to be decided on emotions and whims, rather than evidence…scary given the state spends tens of billions.

If I recall gormley was ridiculed for trying to prevent people
Paving over their back yards and generally implementation of SUDS (sustainable urban drainage). Maybe now people might listen?

Also, was in Valencia last month, in the 60’s they diverted the main river from the centre of the city to prevent flooding. Interesting solution.

That Mapalerter service is a good idea but it still requires some human to realise what is going on and send the alert out.

A little bit of forward planning would go a long way. Met Eireann had a weather warning on their website at 0815 yesteray. iWeather online had warning yesterday and Sunday. Heavier than usual amounts of rainfall entering the earth’s drainage system (note to dublin city council: thats rivers & streams). This system drains towards the sea. Now use a very useful piece of OLD technology – a tide table. Any fool could have seen that strong winds and incoming high tide was about to meet a lot of water trying to drain out to sea. Excess has no place to go except as stated above by Brian Woods Snr -“it flowed back (from a very angry Dodder) via the surfacewater/greywater drains”.

This happens year after year in other parts of the country also. Surely it’s quite a simple task for engineers to sit down together and predict where the water will go?

Reflecting a little. This is the third time I recall serious (material damage) flooding along Dodder. Pretty stream in dry weather, but a monster after heavy rain. We know what will happen, just not the when.

This begs the significant matter of what ‘should’ be done, rather than what ‘needs’ to be done (to mitigate future material losses).

Can the legislature ‘force’ folk to protect their property? No compo of any sort will be paid. Can insurance companies ‘refuse’ to provide cover for flood damage (they must know by now where the hazards are, and thus what the risks are). No excuse here.

Local gov: Maybe we should adopt a Building Permit code. An owner of a property cannot apply for planning unless they already have a valid building permit which considers all the local conditions. You cannot appeal this permit: its the law. You build outside the permit: you lose what you have constructed, your freedom and you pay all costs.

Whose property is it anyway? Moral hazard – again? I think we need to do a lot of thinking about this. Art: 43.2 DOES NOT give a blank cheque to owners of private property –

“The State may, as occasion requires delimit by law the excercise of said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good” This seems clear enough. The first official version uses the phrase “an phobail dá chéile.” Anyone want to venture a literal (or legal) translation of that? Hmmmmm.

Clearly, it is not as simple as I appear to be suggesting. But this in no way excuses the level of ‘official’ obfuscation and buckpassing we observe with depressing, and vexing, regularity. I guess the matter is back with our puny legislators – again!

Brian Snr.

Effective flood control begins in the planning office of the local council. It starts with the diameter of the downspout and goes on to include unpaved (pervious) driveways and paths (interlock or gravel/cinder on residential properties. For commercial properties it includes the foregoing plus slope of the lot (not more than centimetre per metre) and capacity of the mandatory holding pond plus the diameter of the pipe draining the pond. In Ireland of course it would not take too many Euros greasing the right paw to reinterpret the rules.

During the fifties Ireland had a National Drainage Scheme where rivers like the Feale, Galey and Smearla were dredged to alleviate flooding and the results are still evident today. The drainage scheme is fondly remembered for the number of well paid jobs it created in North Kerry, My mother used to thank God a dozen times a week for the Drainage Scheme after the customers paid cash and a bit down on the amount outstanding on the ledger.

True, with regards to human input… at the moment there is zero direct gov-to-citizen communication so http://MapAlerter.com is a great starting point.
We are also linking in with Council systems so that they auto-publish alerts, bypassing human interaction entirely.
This can range from nearby planning applications to river levels reaching dangerous heights. Working with a few Councils on this – watch this space!

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