Hurricane Gert arrived in Muff, and indeed Inishowen and surrounding areas, last night with a bang. We knew it was coming but nothing prepared us for the devastation that was to ensue. I was going to write a blog post about the damage, but we’ve all followed it in person, on social media and via the news from early last night. Enough has been written, enough has been seen. Need I say more. Yes! I feel it’s important to speak out about the culmination of the goodness, the warmth, the sheer fight that is among each and every person that lives here in Muff, in Inishowen and much further afield. 

I was already feeling very much part of our local community yesterday evening as a friend from the village was taking me to dinner (an early birthday dinner) in Derry last night. We both ventured into the city shortly after 6.30pm. The rain was coming down fast and as we drove along the Strand Road we noticed water coming up from drains on the road. Admittedly we did laugh and think it was funny at the time. Little did we know we wouldn’t be laughing on our way home just two hours later.

We dined in Saffron and made a very wise conscious decision to refrain from the wine. We knew it was a rough night and so planned to drive straight home after our curry. However, we then went along to St Jude Eatery for a late coffee before heading home to Muff. We left Derry around 8.30pm to drive back out the road. We never envisaged what awaited us as we arrived at the Muff border. To say the road was flooded would be such an understatement. Contemplating driving through the water wasn’t even an option. We followed the flow of traffic, turned around, and headed back to Culmore. We then proceeded down past the Golf Club to come out at what we call ‘the back road’. As we hit the ‘back road’ we also hit a major flood. We were in it before we realised what was happening. It was impossible to turn right onto the desired ‘back road’ and so we proceeded towards the Rock Bar in a desperate attempt to get back to Muff. Fortunately we hit this road just in time and did manage to crawl our way back to the village. To say we laughed a lot would be an understatement. The alternative was crying. Many squeals were heard in the car (it must’ve been her, it wasn’t me – hell it was both of us) as the night sky was alight constantly with lightening. We were scared and there’s no denying it. We were so very lucky to make it back to the village over an hour later and did get to my friends home in Wheatfield.

I then rang home and got the news that Muff border was impassable from both sides and there was no way I was getting home last night. We made tea, we sipped, and we talked. At all times trying to ignore what was happening outside. By 11pm we could no longer ignore the reality of the night that was in it. My son was working in the village and was texting about the devastation that was happening. My husband was at the border and ringing telling us about the devastation there. My friends were texting and neighbours were texting.

Around midnight my son came down to us and said we might get home if we head back to the village then. He and I then walked to Texaco, calling into Maxol Spar Muff, who were exceptionally helpful all night and helped so many unfortunate folk, en route. From this moment on I then saw what the village I’ve lived in for the past 24 years is all about.

Strangers, business owners, neighbours and more were rallying around helping folk. So many were stranded in Muff. Our local Hall was opened and welcoming people to shelter. Homes around the village opened their doors to those stranded for the night. People in lorries, jeeps and large vehicles were attempting to rescue people, take them home, and just ease their immediate stress and worry. 

Local businesses remained open until the wee hours to assist all. Shortly before 1am two neighbouring men of mine offered to try and take me home. They succeeded in doing such in a jeep. To say I was grateful is an understatement. Other neighbours were offering to help me get home. But I wasn’t stranded. I had my friends house to return to if I so wished. Other people were not so fortunate. They really were stranded far from home. And yet our local people offered every assistance and more besides. Everyone went above and beyond the call of duty.

As the night went on, social media became awash with the utter devastation that was unfolding in the local area and beyond. Little sleep was had in my house and in most homes in the immediate vicinity last night.

I was up and out after 8am this morning. It was only then that I realised the true extent of the damage that was unfolding. Family, friends, neighbours, businesses etc were left without homes, premises and belongings. So many people were losing so much throughout the night and today. Roads disappeared, bridges collapsed, and hills began to move. Homes were distraught. People were distraught. And yet…..

The community rallied round. The peninsula rallied round. The emergency services rallied round. Young and old rallied round. Donegal and Derry came together as one big community for each other. Each area became one. Everyone just helped whomever they encountered. 

I can only speak for our own village in Muff for what I saw with my own eyes. And it was amazing. Our people were/are amazing. One example is the local fitness studio in Kilderry which was affected. The owner is on holiday. And yet from early today local people were down cleaning his premises out and trying to get it sorted. No one needed to wait for the owner to return. It was already being taken care of. This is just a small example.

Our roads are a mess. Our roads have been lost temporarily. But they are all being seen to at present. We can only hope that the work can get done soon and the repairs will prevail.

I could write all night about the wonderful people we have here in Muff and surrounding area. But there’s no need. We all know that they’re there, and that they are doing everything possible to help each other.

It’s going to take a long time to get the village and surrounding area back on track. But it will be done. Our people, our community will ensure that it does. 

Today our plight has been felt by many abroad also. As a writer with Irish Music Magazine, I’m very fortunate to meet and interview a host of musicians worldwide. Many of these musicians are US based. One of these musicians contacted me earlier today. She’d been following my posts on facebook throughout the past 24 hours and has offered to host an event in the US to help Muff and surrounding area. Such is the love far and wide for our village.

So the message here is simply: Muff, Inishowen, Donegal might be forgotten in the grander scheme of things in Ireland. But we are HERE, and we are staying HERE and we’ll show Dublin and beyond that we really are a force to be reckoned with. We have a voice, and we shall be heard. The NW needs help and we need it NOW. We are a community who stick together through thick and thin and we deserve much needed help. Just give it NOW.

Here’s to an amazing community of people. I know I’m very grateful to be a part of it. I hope you are too.