Noel ‘Buddha’ Healy was for many years an immovable object in the Shannon and Munster front row.
But he said he had never encountered an irresistible force quite like the wall of water that demolished his concrete boundary wall on Saturday morning and swamped his back garden under seven feet of water.
A playhouse he had built for his daughters years before was still floating in his submerged garden at Athlunkard Street when the Leader visited on Monday.
“At half past seven I had a shower, came out, put on the kettle and had a cup of coffee. I sat into the car to bring it over to my mechanic for a service. I was being brought then to the Maldron Hotel to do a (driver) CPC licence. Majella (Noel’s wife) rang me at eight o’clock and she was absolutely uncontrollable. I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. I thought she was after finding our daughter dead in bed,” said Noel.
Had he opened the kitchen curtains Majella had bought only the previous day, Noel might have noticed something before he set off for the mechanic. The curtains wouldn’t survive the morning and nor would much else on Athlunkard Street.
“By the time I rushed back, the water was up to here,” said Noel, pointing to a waist-high watermark on the back door.
“It settled down but then it started coming through the door.”
Water from the Abbey, which had burst its banks, then flowed in through the back of houses on the north terrace of Athlunkard Street, out through the front doors, and across the street to flood their neighbours.
“I was just standing there. I thought it was the end of the world,” said Noel.
While the ESB has said the flooding was tidal and the rate of discharge through Parteen Weir and Ardnacrusha had no bearing on events, Noel and others along Athlunkard Street are skeptical.
“I’m convinced somebody up in the power station has to be held accountable and I’ll tell you why. We had the high tide today (Monday) that went off without incident. It was supposed to be the same as on Saturday but what happened then was there was a massive bang heard down the Island from a force of water; water that had to have been suddenly released. It was a tsunami that came in over our back walls. Look at the height of it! It was seven feet. It had to be (the ESB). There is no other explanation.”
Across the street, Peter Sheehan was helping his 77-year-old grandfather Gerry Mullins cart off ruined bedding and furniture.
Peter was also convinced that the ESB had serious questions to answer.
“Why did it flood in the morning high tide and not in the evening high tide and the answer a lot of us feel has to do with the ESB. When did they let down water and how much and why?”
The authorities had been “making excuses on the radio” about how they had been caught completely unawares by the force of the storm.
“They had ample warning of this with the weather warnings all last week. They were not prepared and should have been out in areas like this doing the basics. These houses would have been saved had they been out distributing handbags,” said Peter.
Not only was Gerry’s home inundated, he had also lost a car when the carpark of St Mary’s Church was swamped.
It was a Volkswagen Golf Gerry bought only two years ago and with only 16,000 miles on the clock.
“It was totally destroyed so hopefully I’ll be covered for it now,” rued Gerry.
Young couple Paddy O’Sullivan and Carol Meagher only returned from Canada last year and have spent the time since renovating and furnishing Paddy’s father’s old surgery on Athlunkard Street.
“We moved back and did it all up but we mustn’t have done a great job on the flooring because it all flew out the door first thing when the water hit on Saturday morning”, said Paddy.
The couple were woken by the sound of bobbing bins clattering against one another in their back garden.
“We opened the curtains and there was water up to the top of the wall, three feet or so,” said Paddy.
“A woman who lives two doors down said her window was like a fishbowl. The water was halfway up her window. It was like going to the aquarium,” said Carol.
“We put on the wellies and salvaged what we could” before the water started to seep in through the hinges of the back door.
“Two couches, our mattress, all our flooring, a computer, clothes, appliances, shoes: all of it had to go,” she said.
“We are waiting for advice on whether some of the bigger appliances that are only three months old will have to go as well. You don’t want to get rid of brand new stuff - cooker, washing machine, dishwasher - it just feels wrong.”
Paddy, who works with Novas Initiatives homeless services in the city, suddenly found himself having to rely on others for shelter. But the couple agreed they were a lot more fortunate than others in the parish.
“We’ve been taken in,” said Paddy and the couple have been staying with his parents in Corbally since the flood hit.
“We are a lot luckier than a lot of other people. We have a place to go. We hadn’t everything done to the house but we do have to start all over again.”
“It’s the families in St Mary’s Park who you feel for. Often down there, there could be six or seven houses among all the relatives. What happens when all your relatives houses are flooded out? Then you really have nowhere to go,” he said.