Elaine fears for future of family farm after blizzard chaos

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A FEYSTOWN farmer has spoken of her family’s struggle to cope with the unprecedented snow storm that has left them stranded and threatened their livelihood.

The hills above Glenarm was one of the worst-hit areas when the blizzard struck on Friday, causing drifts of up to 18ft and leaving many people trapped in their homes with no electricity.

And Elaine McGarel, who runs a farm on Feystown Road with her husband Damian, told the Times of the nightmare her family has been forced to endure in the wake of the severe weather.

The couple and their five children, like many other residents in the isolated community, found themselves snowbound with no power over the weekend.

Speaking to the Times on Monday, Elaine said: “I have never seen anything like this before and I sincerely hope I never do again. The situation is as dire as you can get, and it has got to the point where I dread waking up in the morning.

“This whole area has been cut off for days now and it doesn’t look like it will get any better any time soon. There was an amber alert in place on Friday and we were prepared for that, but nothing could have prepared us for this.

“I have five kids between the ages of seven and 14, and two of them suffer from Aspergers syndrome. They are used to having routine in their lives and have been finding this whole situation really stressful. We just don’t know when it is going to end.

“Luckily we had a good stock of food in the house, but we ran out of gas and I had to walk to my mother’s house to collect a gas tank and drag it back home through the snow, just so I could cook something.”

But as disruptive as the snow has been to their daily lives, it is the safety of her livestock that the family is now focused on.

The blizzard came at a crucial time in the agricultural calendar, leaving Elaine and many other farmers cut off from their animals in the middle of lambing season.

Elaine added: “Many of our sheep are buried and we spent hours digging through the snow to try and reach them. They are really suffering and many will not survive.”

She is now fearful of the financial impact that her family will have to face when the thaw eventually comes.

“It is impossible to know for sure at the moment, but I think we will be lucky if we have a third of our lamb crop left once this is all over. It could be a case that we will have to start from scratch.

“I really don’t know how some farmers are going to survive this crisis and I can only hope there will be some kind of financial assistance coming our way,” Elaine concluded.