By Margaret Roddy
Last week, a severe hail storm caused devastation to parts of northern Italy, including a family from north Louth.
On the shores of Lake Garda, Dave Fearon, his wife Mairead, his children Katie and Jamie, and his parents Kevin and Briege, from Mountpleasant were relaxing in the Bella Italia campsite when a catastrophic storm swept across the region, causing hailstones the size of tennis balls to fall.
“We were playing cards outside when a storm erupted,” recalls the former Dundalk Rugby Club coach and player.
Thunder and lightening had been intense in the lead-up to the hail storm, but they didn’t think much of it as it is common during hot weather.
The storm intensified suddenly, however, with hailstones pelting the campsite.
“Suddenly, the wind whipped up. At first, the hailstones were about the size of peanuts, but then they grew to about the size of tennis balls.”
Getting inside was a matter of luck because the glass door was protected by a canopy. The moment we arrived, a poor girl fell in the door with a bad gash on her head. She worked in the restaurant and was caught in the storm. After the storm was over, we cleaned her up and brought her to the reception. She was in a bad way and could have died.”
Their two children, aged eight and nine, were scared by the sound of hailstones hitting the roof of their bungalow as huge hailstones battered caravans, campervans, tents and cars on the site.
We saw the devastation when we went out the next morning,” Dave says.
Strong winds accompanying the storms brought down trees and branches on the site, as well as damaging patio furniture. Hailstones smashed windscreens and made dents in the bodywork of vehicles and caravans on the site.
“The pool was closed for two days because of the damage.”
To prevent people from driving damaged cars while the cleanup operation was underway, cars were towed away.
“There were so many cars with broken windscreens that they ran out of windscreens.”
As a result of the storms, many European tourists who drove to Italy were left stranded, and relief operations were put in place to assist them.
Dave and his family flew home on Saturday, continuing their holiday.
As a result of an Italian baggage handlers’ strike, their holiday was cut short.
Dave says, “Mairead, the kids, and I went out three days late, and then my parents joined us for the second week.”
While there, the temperatures were around 28° to 38°, not 40° as they had anticipated.
“The heat never got unbearable.”
He says local residents they spoke with had never experienced weather like the hailstorm.
“It’s not uncommon for them to get 8-10 inches of rain during a storm, but they’ve never seen anything like this.”
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