EU PROTECTS > Our Environment > Weathering the storm: How the EU supported Ireland in a fight against floods

“There’s nothing worse than being unprepared in the middle of a storm. Even one extra day can be vital in getting ready for floods.”

Rachel Lowe

In the early hours of Thursday, 3 December 2015, Ireland received a warning from the European flood awareness system. A storm was building, bringing with it the risk of heavy rainfall and flooding.

Thankfully, Ireland wasn’t left alone. The European Flood Awareness System sent early and accurate forecasts, giving Ireland a vital 2-day window to stock up on emergency supplies and warn residents. As the torrential rainfall persisted into January, Ireland relied on EU satellite information for rapid updates on the quickly changing situation.

From Galway to Brussels, discover how the EU helped Ireland prepare an appropriate flood response, minimising the harm to property and people.

Weathering the storm: How the EU supported Ireland in a fight against floods

In winter 2015-16, Ireland experienced some of the worst flooding it had seen in decades. Rain fell heavily as a series of storms battered the west, south and interior of the country. Find out how the EU’s early warning and monitoring services helped Ireland tackle massive flooding and kept people safe.

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Rachel Lowe

Lead engineer, Tuam County – Galway

Ireland

“At 9:20 on 3 December 2015, I got an email from the Office of Public Works that a major storm was coming our way. Galway has 2 main roads into the city. If we couldn’t keep these roads open during the storm, hospitals, schools, public transportation – the whole city – would’ve shut down.”

“Following the email alert, we ordered water pumps, sandbags, traffic lights and asked for back-up from the army. We also sent out a warning to the public through social media.”

“The EU-wide system gave us time to warn residents and secure the area against flooding.”

 - Rachel Lowe

Jim Casey

Office of Public Works

Ireland

“EU weather monitoring was especially valuable in predicting the huge storms of December 2015. It was our duty to make sure city officials were informed straightaway. During the storms, we also asked for European satellite snapshots of the flooding in near real-time. This gave us a sense of what was actually happening throughout the country, and if the situation was getting better or worse.”

“We used the EU’s flood awareness system and its satellite mapping service to manage widespread flooding.”

 - Jim Casey

Dr Fredrik Wetterhall

Swedish, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

United Kingdom

“Through the European Flood Awareness System, we share flood forecasts with governments and emergency services anywhere in Europe. In early December 2015, we sent multiple flash flood warnings to Ireland. These included details on when the storm would begin, when the maximum flood wave would pass through a certain area, and which cities would be most affected by flooding, such as Galway.”

“We delivered the early warning to Ireland that something big was about to happen.”

 - Dr Fredrik Wetterhall

Spyros Afentoulidis

Greek, Emergency Response Coordination Centre, European Commission

Belgium

“When we received word from Ireland, parts of the country were already flooded, with no sign of the situation improving anytime soon. Ireland’s flood response teams wanted to understand the gravity of the disaster.”

“Around 36 hours after the request, we had the first satellite maps of the flooded areas. Ultimately, 107 satellite maps of 13 different affected areas were created. These maps detailed the timing, location, the extent and evolution of the floods and river flow, among other elements.”

“It was one of the biggest floods in Ireland in recent years. From our emergency centre, we made sure Ireland had maps and our support."

 - Spyros Afentoulidis

Françoise Villette

French, Copernicus Emergency Management Service

Belgium

“Copernicus, the EU’s Earth observation programme, keeps an eye on changes in the atmosphere, climate, and the general health of our land and seas. Scientific evidence suggests that flooding will increase globally as a result of climate change. So we need to reduce the impact of man-made and natural emergencies, such as floods, in Europe. In Ireland, Copernicus offered storm forecasting and rapid satellite mapping. But this support extends to any European country facing extreme weather.” 

“EU-wide coordination is absolutely essential to combat natural and man-made disasters.” 

 - Françoise Villette

Did you know?

€6 billion

The economic damage caused by floods in Europe in 2016.

10 days

How far ahead the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) can predict floods anywhere in Europe. Between 3 December 2015 and 6 January 2016, the EU sent 19 flood alerts to Irish officials.

50%

The increase in global floods and extreme rainfall over the last decade.

500,000-1,000,000

The number of people in Europe expected to be affected by flooding in the future.

107

The number of maps requested by Irish authorities from the Copernicus Rapid Mapping Service (Copernicus EMS-Mapping) between December 2015 and January 2016. These maps revealed the scale and extent of flooding in Ireland.

20 years, 7 satellites in orbit

The EU’s Copernicus programme is the third largest space data provider in the world. The data collected by its satellites contributes to keeping Europeans safe from the negative effects of climate change and natural disasters. It also supports 4,000 jobs every year.

WHO ARE THE OTHER HEROES RESPONDING TO DISASTERS?

Some of them may even come from your country.

Connected by the EU, there is a network of local heroes working together to help protect us from floods and other natural disasters, pollution, the effects of climate change and more. From pilots to prosecutors, conservationists to customs officers, discover how the EU supports local heroes in your country.