Lessons to be learned from Storm Arwen

North-east councillors have said that there will be “lessons to be learned” from the way Aberdeenshire Council dealt with the devastating impact of Storm Arwen.

By Kirstie Topp, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 8:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 9:35 am
Storm Arwen caused wide-spread damage leaving thousands without power and water last November.
Storm Arwen caused wide-spread damage leaving thousands without power and water last November.

The storm hit on November 26 and battered communities across the region leaving many communities without power and water for up to a week.

The following morning Scottish and Southern Energy Network (SSEN) reported that 8,000 customers in the north-east had lost power with the number rising to 60,000 by 3pm.

Aberdeenshire Council set up 17 Welfare Centres across the region to provide hot food, water and power to those who needed it while army personnel were deployed to help carry out welfare checks.

A report detailing the impact of Storm Arwen and the local authority’s response went before a meeting of Full Council last Thursday.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Chief Executive Jim Savege told members that SSEN experienced two years worth of faults in one day across the region following the extreme weather.

He said: “I want to pay tribute to the efforts of so many through this period of time. People looking after each other in their community is a real strength of Aberdeenshire, it’s an asset that we have as well as the many hundreds of staff across many agencies including the council who volunteered to give their help given the scale of the response that was required.”

He said that the region was “firmly in the recovery period” but the storm would leave a “long lasting impact and effect” on communities.

He pledged that the council would “learn lessons” from the experience and look at ways to develop and improve its working arrangements.

A series of workshops will be held at each of the region’s Area Committees from next month followed by engagement with communities and local groups while a further report on the matter is expected to come back to Full Council at a later date with any recommendations that may be found.

Officers are still working to establish the full cost of the storm and a report is expected to be presented to Full Council in the future.

A video shown to members revealed that Aberdeenshire Council and its partners delivered over 3,000 meals to communities and sheltered housing, and carried out 8,000 welfare checks following the storm.

Meanwhile the local authority’s Roads team cleared more than 100 fallen trees.

Council leader, Andy Kille, thanked council officers for their hard work and response to the storm. He added: “We should and we must have a full debrief in due course and learn lessons and improve procedures for next time. There will be things that we can and should do better and we must learn from the undoubted mistakes.”

Councillor Peter Argyle said: “This is an issue for Aberdeenshire Council but there are huge issues for the government, not least on how to ensure that the electricity distribution network is resilient to cope with these things in the future especially as we move to a world where there is an ever greater dependence on electricity for almost everything.”

Councillor Gwyneth Petrie added: “There are undoubtedly lessons to be learned and improvements to our resilience plans to be made. It is vital that we use the lived experience of our communities as part of this review process as we move forward. ”