Pics: Scenes of destruction in Cork as farmers count the cost of Ophelia

Co. Cork received the brunt of Storm Ophelia on Monday, as winds battered the southern coastline with close to hurricane-force winds before moving up the country.

AgriLand visited parts of Co. Cork on Tuesday (October 17) as farmers began to assess the damage and begin the clean-up and repair operation.

During the violent storm, winds reached a peak speed of 190kph, as the ex-hurricane tore through the countryside.

Parts of the south and west of the county were worst hit according to local farmers. Every farmer AgriLand spoke to highlighted the lack of electricity as the main immediate challenge facing farmers in affected regions, with generators playing a vital role in keeping farm businesses afloat during the aftermath.

One farmer from just outside Ballinascarty, John Kingston, noted how the ex-hurricane caused structural damage to his shed, knocking in part of the wall on one side and tearing off sheets of galvanising. He said: “Yesterday [Monday] we all got the warning in advance from Met Eireann, and we were all taking precautions.

“I rang my local contractor as I was watching my building here seesawing in the wind and we said we’d tie it down. The contractor came down to me, but wiser counsel prevailed – so next thing we were inside in the milking parlour looking out and there were sheets [of galvanise] flying about and timber.

I’d say the timber landed about 1,500 yards away from the shed. The wind from quarter to 11 until 12 o’clock was the worst I’ve ever seen.

“Basically we’ll just have to count the costs and start again. Hopefully we won’t see it again,” Kingston said.

Lack of power

Michael Dullea and his son Paul, from Clonakilty, also described Ophelia as the worst storm they’d ever seen. Michael noted that common sense has to prevail in situations like that and to stay securely indoors during such a storm.

Substantial damage was done to a shed rented by the Dulleas in Woodfield, outside Clonakilty, where the back of the shed was effectively forced outwards away from the roof, with back cladding also ripped away. However, the biggest problem according to Michael, was the lack of electricity in the region. An electricity pole had been toppled closeby, which completely eliminated power to the area.

The Dulleas had a PTO generator running to keep the farm ticking over, for milking cows and keeping milk cool in the bulk tank – as well as electricity for the house. “You don’t realise how vital electricity is for the farm until it goes,” Michael said.

It’s like the old saying ‘you never miss the water until the well runs dry’. The same applies on the farm – everything is electronic these days from the milking machine, to the feeding system, to the gates.

Michael praised the manner in which authorities dealt with the storm before it arrived, noting that the meteorologists and media had done a very good job in providing plenty of warning to people before the onset of the storm. The Government Task Force for Emergency Planning also handled the situation very well, Michael added.

Below is just a snapshot of some of the damage caused by the ex-hurricane around southern Cork. Numerous felled and broken trees were to be seen, though many had already been cleared by Tuesday.

In Bantry, local dairy farmer Cornie Buckley also commented on the events that unfolded: “On the weather, Bantry hasn’t fared out too badly out of that; power in a lot of areas around Bantry, Durrus, out into Goldeen and the Bere Peninsula is not too badly affected.

“It’s from here east to Skibereen, Leap, Roscarbery, Clonakilty, Ballyroe, Kinsale, across back into Dunmanway, Drimoleague, Caheragh, Tarelton, Macroom; it looks like there is a lot of outages there now.

“This is going on a second day and there’s no power back yet. My understanding is that some people will be out of power for a number of days. I presume there are some back today (Tuesday); yesterday, from what I could gather, 90% of the farming people in west Cork had no electricity and no power.

“I presume some of those are restored today, but I’m sure it’ll be a few days before the last of them is restored.

It’s creating quite a bit of hardship, especially for dairy people who just may not be set up. Some people may have changed parlours and forgot to do the changeover and things like that.

“It’s unusual to have a storm at this time of year in October – a lot of generators and a lot of equipment is being used to get cows milked and to get work done.

“It’s a busy time for people to get over that, plus any damage that was done – which in fairness wasn’t too bad in this area. I know if you go along by Skibereen, along by the coast, Roscarbery, Clonakilty, there’d be quite a lot more damage.

“I was talking to someone today in Ballyroe direction and they said that any sheds that were exposed or open at all got some battering. So, that’s how it is, I think it won’t be forgotten by a lot of people,” Buckley said.

“It lasted most of the day – it started in the morning, kind of calmed down, then came back again around 11 or 12 o’clock; the wind changed to west and it came from the western side at that stage with some showers. So, it lasted a long day I know, but thank God there have been no fatalities or anything like that in this area, which I know there have been through the country; it’s just a pity how that happened.

But people heeded the warning – there was a warning out on Sunday, and a lot of things were postponed, schools and collecting milk and our co-ops and things were all held off on yesterday, which helped to get through the day safely and that worked; that was very important.

Buckley noted that his farm’s milk was collected by the local co-op the evening before the storm hit. He added: “They sent out lorries Sunday evening to collect milk in order to take the pressure off for Monday.”

Summarising the main challenges now facing local farmers, Buckley said: “The big thing would be power outages, trees down, some damage in this area – but I know other areas have more. I think they were the main problems, and it will take some time before those people are back up and running again.”