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Year in review, December: From tropical nights to stormy days

As climate change takes hold across the country, extreme weather conditions are becoming the norm, and in Kerry, some of these extremes could be seen in 2021.

onditions went from Kerry’s first recorded tropical night in July, to Storm Barra in December – two polar-opposite weather fronts. 

For the first time in 20 years, Met Éireann recorded, at its Valentia station, that temperatures didn’t drop below 20.5 degrees Celsius all night. According to the national forecaster, tropical nights are extremely rare in Ireland, and they have only occurred six times on the digital record. 

The same observatory recorded July as having a higher-than-average temperature this year. It also recorded a drier year than normal, overall. 

But it was from summers highs to winter lows as Kerry experienced the wrath of Storm Barra in December. 

With a red warning in place for the whole county, schools were shut for two days, and many businesses also closed their doors.

The public was urged not to make unnecessary journeys due to the danger posed by falling trees and high winds.

Thankfully, the expected weather was not as bad as predicted but, nonetheless,  wind and rain battered the county, causing trees to fall and roads to flood.

While there was no loss of life or severe damage, homes were left without drinking water and electricity, many for several days. 

Almost 3,000 households were affected by boil-water notices across the county, while 8,000 customers were without power the day after the storm. These included homes in Castleisland, Inch, and on the Iveragh peninsula. 

More than 10,000 customers were affected by electricity outages in total as rain and winds battered the county.

ESB crews worked around the clock to try and maintain supply, and though it took several days for power to be restored to some homes, crews did their utmost to fix issues as soon as possible and were lauded for their hard work. 

So, too, were Kerry County Council crews who worked tirelessly, removing fallen trees once it was safe to do so and spending days clearing roads where trees had fallen.

Several roads were closed, including the N70 Tralee-Castlemaine road and the R555 Listowel-Abbeyfeale road at Woodford, while Main Street in Ballybunion was closed due to falling debris from the derelict Ballybunion Golf Hotel, which was damaged in the storm.

Rathass road in Tralee was also closed due to concerns about debris.

Boil-water notices were put in place for customers supplied by the Caragh Lake water supply; the Aughacasla public water supply; and the Annascaul water supply. These notices affected thousands of homes across the county.

The notices were put in place because of power cuts caused by Storm Barra, and as a result, Irish Water could not guarantee that the drinking water entering these supplies was properly disinfected.

It took some time before all water notices were lifted. 

Kerry escaped any large-scale flooding during Storm Barra, though the N71 road near the suspension bridge was impassable for a time. Flooding was reported near the Tankard at Kilfenora and in Ballyheigue, and near the Ballyroe Hotel.

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