Severe weather brings business to a halt in North Antrim

BUSINESSES and farmers across North Antrim are reporting heavy financial losses following the unprecedented snowfalls and high winds which paralysed many parts at the weekend.

Some of the worst weather conditions this winter wiped out electric supplies and forced shops, offices and schools to close.

Farmers in the Glens area were hit hardest with lost sheep and lambs lost in as much as 20 feet of snow and at a time when lambing is at its peak.

Hundreds of homes also found themselves without electricity from the early hours of Friday morning forcing many to make alternative arrangements for heating and cooking.

Areas badly affected were Ballycastle and the Glens which saw snow and rain bring commercial life to a virtual halt as well as preventing many motorists in the Ballyvoy/Carey areas from getting to work.

All schools in Ballycastle as well as surrounding districts including Armoy and the Glens areas closed on Friday with office staff hastily sending text messages to parents urging them to keep their children at home because of the lack of heating.

Shops such as the Co-op closed their doors while other outlets with electronic tills resorted to using calculators and torches to keep business moving.

Motorists running low in fuel were unable to fill up locally and had to travel as far as Ballymoney for supplies.

Electricity was also out for long periods in Armoy, Loughgiel, Dervock, Killyrammer and in other rural parts while Ballymoney escaped largely untouched with hardly any evidence of snow.

The only hiccup in the town appeared to be the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cash dispensing machines which were out of order.

Supplies in Ballycastle and surrounding areas were restored in mid-afternoon but other parts had to wait much longer.

In Armoy, for example, it was a stop start scenario with supplies coming off an on intermittnetly.

Ballymoney Councillor Bill Kennedy who runs a petrol station and supermarket in the village said he had to hire a generator to keep his freezers going, but couldn’t get his fuel pumps up and running.

“The power was restored on Friday and we thought it wouldn’t be too bad but it only stayed on for about 15 minutes before coming on again in the evening,” he said.

Cllr. Kennedy said he would undoubtedly suffer a financial but that was something he had to accept.

On a general note he felt sorry for the elderly who might not have any other heating source but oil to keep themselves warm.

“Unfortunately, our lives are dictated by power to a large extent and when the flick of a switch doesn’t produce anything it brings home our dependency on electric,” he said.

Many social events were called off including the Ballycastle and District Horse Ploughing Society’s annual dinner and presentation of prizes which was due to take place at Hunters in Ballyvoy on Friday night.

No new date has yet been fixed.

Electricity and telephone poles were uprooted by the strong winds which also brought down trees at the Quarry bends near Carnately and around the Ballyvoy area.

Administrative work at Moyle Council virtually ground to a halt with landline and mobile telephones not working and staff were sent home early.

Local councillors also had no access to phones or computers.

Councillor Seamus Blaney said he had received a large number of telephone calls to find out what was happening.

“All I could do was to contact NIE to be told what every one else was told,” Cllr. Blaney said.

Mobile users in Ballycastle were also hit by the storms which knocked out receivers with one person reporting that he had to travel near Moyarget before he got a signal.

The situation also reached other areas of work with solicitors having to ask for adjournments at Coleraine Magistrates court since they couldn’t access files on their computers.

A bus carrying 33 Scottish tourists got into difficulty in the snow in Ballycastle, on Friday evening.

The group was later lead to safety by the North West Mountain Rescue Team and taken to Hunters in Ballyvoy.

The same rescue crews were also involved in helping a family who were snowed-in at a farmhouse on high ground, close to Glenarm.

Joe Dowdall said they have been sending up supplies of food.

“When the team arrived they could only get to within about three miles of the farm and they couldn’t actually get the people out,” he told UTV.

“They’re actually carrying food and supplies in to the farm to resupply.”

A spokesperson for NIE said that emergency crews and engineers had been working since first light on Friday to assess the damage caused and start the restoration process which was likely to continue through the afternoon and evening.

Damage had been caused by flying debris and high winds, including broken electricity lines and damage to poles and other equipment.

Hundreds of NIE engineers, emergency crews, call handlers and administrative staff were reinforcing their normal capability to restore supplies following severe weather damage, and to provide regularly updated information to customers.

Emergency crews have started the repair process in areas where it is safe to do so.

Customers who have lost supply were advised first find out if their neighbours are also without power and check household fuses and trip switches before contacting NIE.

The Roads Service website recorded the following information on Monday:

Ballymoney & Moyle Council area:

•A2 Cushendall Road, the main road from Cushendall to Ballycastle - CLEARED

•A43 Glenariff Road - REOPENED

•C82 Torr Road is closed between Cushendun village to the village of Ballyvoy