Good lessons learned from Ophelia

We dodged a bullet on Monday when Storm Ophelia breezed in, but left what was really only superficial damage compared to what we had all feared was coming.

The entire county was geared up for a traumatic bashing at least as bad if not worse than the pounding we took in 2014, when Storm Darwin rode in on the tail of a couple of earlier storms, delivering devastation all round.

That battering raised a cleanup and repair bill estimated to exceed €50m in Kerry alone.

As it turned out, Storm Ophelia came and went with only comparatively minor damage in the county. South Kerry took the brunt of it, with flooding and road closures, but compared to previous years - and to the rest of the country - we got off relatively lightly with this one.

The build-up to Ophelia’s arrival was played out over the weekend by a media only too thankful for something tangible and local to consider.

Most outlets went more or less into 24-7 overdrive warning us about how bad it would be - which was better than the usual weekend diet of Brexit stories or Austrian election updates I suppose.

We knew exactly what was expected. Still, there is a sense that we panicked and sent the county into lockdown for what turned out to be more of a whimper than a bang.

Schools, businesses, shops all followed the warnings issued by the government and battened down the hatches, and the county’s roads and streets were basically abandoned for the day.

Some have suggested that was an overreaction. But there’s no other way to deal in advance with predictions that the fiercest storm in a generation is on the way. You can’t ignore it.

And you can’t go at it in half measures either. You’re either putting safety first, or you’re not.

Treating Ophelia as a serious developing threat was the only correct move.

Should the schools have been closed for a second day on Tuesday?

The decision was made on health and safety grounds - to make sure facilities were safe to hold classes, that electricity and heating etc were all in working order.

I’m sure it put a lot of parents in a tight spot, particularly those who had already taken off work on Monday.

But when the decision was made on Monday afternoon, there were 350,000 homes and businesses across the country without power, so there were few other options.

We’re all wise in retrospect, and of course we all ‘knew’ there was nothing to worry about with Ophelia. But as the three tragedies caused by the storm show, you can’t be too careful with an unpredictable weather event.

It may have turned out in Kerry to be a storm in a teacup, but the lesson learned is that it’s better to be over-prepared than not be prepared at all. What’s a day or two of inconvenience if it minimises a storm’s impact on lives and property?

Last words to Ophelia herself, in her most famous role before last Monday - Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

‘I shall the effect of this good lesson keep

As watchman to my heart.’