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SSEN engineering teams describe Storm Arwen conditions

SSEN engineering teams are still continuing to restore the remaining 9,500 customers who have been without power since Friday afternoon.

SSEN engineering teams are still continuing to restore the remaining 9,500 customers who have been without power since Friday afternoon.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, (SSEN) confirms 578 properties remain without power in Perthshire, the electricity board encourages those affected to arrange alternative accommodation with costs being reimbursed.

Engineering teams across the company, including contractors, continue to work throughout tonight and are expected to restore a further 3,000 proprieties pending no further damage is found.

Engineers and tree cutters spoke about their last 5 days of working, battling against the damage caused by storm Arwen.

Jamie Richard a tree cutter from SSEN said:

“Travel has been hectic – the wind and the debris and trees on the road – we’ve been stuck on the roads and delayed by up to an hour and half trying to get to a job.

 “I’ve cut about 200 or 300 trees away from the lines already, but there are so many to get to because of the widespread damage. This is the worst I’ve ever seen, whole woodlands have been wiped out in places, leaving just a few trees standing in some places. 

“The wind, snow and rain has slowed our progress with poor road conditions. We’ve found ourselves getting delayed trying to get to faults. Sometimes we’re finding two or three trees on the lines, other times it’s twenty or thirty trees fallen on the network.  It’s a long process in getting the line made safe, meaning we can work properly and then reconstruct the line safely.”

John Shanks, a Project Engineer for SSEN described the conditions he faced.

“Storm Arwen has caused lots of windblown damage, lots of trees down, lots of flying debris, roofs off sheds – the majority of the damage is trees that are down on overhead lines. 

“Conditions have been quite tough – when the storm came in on Friday it was obviously quite extreme and the weather obviously changed a little bit on Sunday.  So, we were dealt with snow where we are and then a lot of black ice on the roads as well. 

“We generally would work until about midnight, but if there’s an option to restore a few extra customers we will be working on an extra hour or two to do so.  That’s what we did last night, and that’s what we did the night before.

“I haven’t seen so much widespread network damage in my time with the business.  The last time there was anything similar was in Campbeltown in 2013, but that was a very concentrated area – here the faults have been from Inverness to Aberdeen to Perth, spread over a very, very wide area.

“We’re working really long hours to get the network restored back to normal, but if you do see any damage on the network – please report it.”  

Robert Wetherspoon a Project Manager for SSEN said:

“It’s very challenging – you think you’ve fixed one fault, try the line back on and it’s coming back out, so sometimes you’ve just got to look everywhere for damage – it could be anywhere so just trying to work out what’s actually going on is the first step.  Now that we’ve started to get some of the lines back in it’s becoming a wee bit easier to narrow down the sections that are faulty. 

READ ARTICLE  SSEN restores all supplies following storm Arwen

“It could be anything, a wire down, trees on the line, damage to the insulators, wires sitting on the steel which wouldn’t be immediately obvious – so it could be anything with the amount of debris that’s been blown about, you just don’t know. So you’ve got to really, really think and have a good look at what you’re dealing with.

“It’s long hours, but when you speak to the customers and they’ve maybe been without power for three or four days, they’re struggling, out in a remote location, quite rural, young kids, your quite happy to keep working on to get those people restored.”

Many affected customers took to social media to thank the front-line workers for their hard work in restoring power to their homes, many of those were off supply for 4-5 days. As expected complaints were also seen across social media, in particular, complaining of response times to contact centres, communication, and false hope over restoration times.

Storm Arwen has been one of the most damaging storms experienced in at least 15 years. It has been at least three times as damaging as ‘Beast from the East’, the storm which hit the country in 2018.

Chris Burchell, SSEN’s Managing Director, said:

“The impact of Storm Arwen has caused catastrophic damage to the electricity network across the north east of Scotland and is the most significant event we have ever had to deal with in the area in a generation. 

“I would like to thank our customers who have shown great resilience, patience and understanding since the impact of Storm Arwen and we fully recognise that urgency of the situation for those who continue to remain off supply. I would like to personally apologise to all customers who have been impacted and would like to reassure everyone still off supply that our teams are working extremely hard to reconnect them as soon as possible.

“Whilst our teams continue to make good progress carrying out repairs and restoring power to homes, some customers regrettably face another night without power. Due to the extent of damage and complexity of repairs our teams are dealing with, unfortunately restoration times for more remote and isolated communities will extend to later this week.

“We therefore encourage all customers who remain off supply to consider our welfare provisions, which we hope will go some way to help them deal with what remains an incredibly difficult situation.

“I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to our local and national resilience partners and stakeholders – including local community groups and charities, local and national governments and elected members – for their continued support and help in responding to the impacts of Storm Arwen.

READ ARTICLE  SSEN confirms thousands remain off supply for third day

“Finally, I would like to pay tribute to our teams of engineers and support staff who continue to work flat out in some of the most challenging conditions we have ever experienced in the region.  Our teams continue to go over and above, working late into the night where it is safe to do so, in harsh conditions, and I know their continued efforts are appreciated by our customers and stakeholders.”

The company continued to say welfare and support are still being offered to those who remain off supply, however, support continues to be prioritised for the most vulnerable Priority Services Register customers.

In addition, the following welfare facilities will continue to support customers who remain off supply, providing hot food and drinks from 8am to until 10pm.  Teams from SSEN are using 4X4 vehicles to deliver hot food and drinks to customers in some of the more remote and isolated communities:

  • Aboyne, Park Hotel car park
  • Alford, Transport Museum Car Park
  • Bogniebrae, Bognie Arms car park
  • Callander, Luti Pizza and Pasta, Main St (12pm to 9pm)
  • Glenshee, Dalrulzion Hotel
  • Kintore The Primary School
  • Kirriemuir, Near Bon Scott Statue
  • Ladysbridge, The Park
  • Lumphanan, Village Hall
  • Strathdon, Layby at Bellabeg
  • Tarland, The Square
  • Torphins, The Square
  • Turriff, Tesco Car Park
  • Whitehills, The Knowes Hotel (from 2pm to 8pm)

Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire, has spoken with officials at SSEN to seek clarity about households in Perthshire that are still without power.

This comes amid a massive recovery operation in the aftermath of Storm Arwen, which has caused significant damage across eastern parts of Scotland. 
Commenting, Mr Wishart said:

“I have spoken with SSEN in relation to the households in my constituency that are now in their sixth day without power.”I was assured that their teams are working as fast as is practically possible to restore power to all homes. Pockets of households in rural areas are still off supply, most of which they are striving to restore by the end of today. However, for some areas where the most extreme damage to power infrastructure has been inflicted, power may not be restored until Friday. 

“SSEN are posting regular updates about the progress being made and the challenges that remain, which can be viewed at Storm Arwen Red Alert (ssen.co.uk).”If any customer is without power and is unable to make alternative arrangements to stay with family or a friend, SSEN will reimburse all reasonable costs for alternative accommodation.”Customers can also continue to access their welfare facilities for free hot food and drinks, as well as claim the costs of takeaways or meals from local establishments, up to £15 per person. 

“This is a horrifying ordeal for those affected, and anyone who is in need of support or advice can contact my office directly.”You can contact my office on 01738 639 598 or via email at pete.wishart.mp@parliament.uk.”

UPDATE: 15:52 – Only around 200 customers from Perthshire remain off supply.

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