Storm Arwen: 'Lessons need to be learned' in Aberdeenshire

Councillors have said that “lessons need to be learned” from the way Aberdeenshire Council dealt with the devastating impact of Storm Arwen.

By Kirstie Topp
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 9:27 am
Updated Thursday, 20th January 2022, 9:44 am
SSEN engineers repaired hundreds of faults caused by fallen trees.
SSEN engineers repaired hundreds of faults caused by fallen trees.

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

Scottish and Southern Energy Network engineers had to repair more faults on the network than they would normally face in two years as they battled to reconnect 60,000 Aberdeenshire households and businesses.

Aberdeenshire Council set up 17 welfare centres across the region, army personnel were deployed to help carry out welfare checks.

A video shown during last week’s full council meeting revealed that the local authority 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 roads team cleared more than 100 fallen trees.

The council’s chief executive Jim Savege paid tribute to the efforts of so many during and in the aftermath of the storm.

He said: “People looking after each other in their community is a real strength of Aberdeenshire, and it’s an asset that we have as well as the many hundreds of staff across many agencies, including the council, volunteered to give their help.”

He added that the storm had left a “long lasting impact” on communities, and that damaged landscapes would take many years to restore.

A series of workshops will be held in each of the region’s area committees from next month, followed by engagement with communities and local groups, to look what worked well and what could have been done better.

Council leader Andy Kille said: “With modern society’s reliance on the internet and mobile phone signals, we do need to find a way to communicate better when we lose those facilities.

“There will be things that we can and should do better and we must learn from the undoubted mistakes.”

Councillor Peter Argyle added: “This is an issue for Aberdeenshire Council, but there are huge issues for the government, not least on how to ensure the electricity distribution network is resilient to cope with these things in the future.”

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

She noted that there was a need to address the communications outage and asked the council to look at how to set up and strengthen resilience groups while suggesting that work was needed with utility companies to help them understand the region to prevent households from being left without power.