Northumberland County Council urged to learn from Storm Arwen

The destruction caused by Storm Arwen took county bosses in Northumberland "by surprise", prompting calls for contingency plans to be stress-tested in preparation for future severe weather.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 8:01 pm
Northumberland County Council was not prepared for the ferocity of Storm Arwen.

About 100,000 homes across the UK were left without power as a result of severe weather, with thousands in the North East still waiting to be reconnected five days later.

The disruption left many in rural areas cut off, as high winds toppled trees, closed roads and knocked out phone masts, prompting a drive to ensure services cope better next time.

“This has all probably taken us by surprise,” said Richard Dodd, who represents Ponteland on Northumberland County Council (NCC).

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“We always have the winter readiness for the roads and all that, but I think we probably didn’t have enough candles, we didn’t have enough paraffin and we weren’t quite prepared for this.

“This has really taken a lot of people by surprise – a lot of the rural areas are used to the power missing for a couple of days, but this is now starting to go on for a bit.

“Certain areas [have] got no communications, we’re used to mobile phones, but when that dies, you sort of die with it.

“We probably need to do a reality check at some point, because if this happens again, and it probably will happen again, we need to be a little bit more prepared.”

Engineers are believed to have restored power supplies to 90 per cents of UK households cut off as a result of Storm Arwen, but, as of Wednesday, more than 40,000 households were thought to be waiting to be reconnected.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ross Easton, director of external affairs at the Energy Networks Association, said the number for the North East alone could be as high as 18,000, making it the worst affected region.

According to Northern Powergrid, which covers an area spanning the Scottish border down to Humberside, it had reconnected 224,000 customers within six days – 95 per cent of those affected.

Cllr Dodd was speaking at NCC’s Communities and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee, where his call for a review was backed by Rob Murfin, the council’s director of planning, who claimed the local authority’s contingency plans had worked well “on the whole”.