People in Scotland and north-east England have said they are “exhausted” and “heartbroken” as they endure a fifth day without power as a result of damage caused by Storm Arwen.
The Energy Networks Association (ENA) confirmed that 45,000 of their UK customers remain without power as of 8am on Tuesday, maintaining that the storm’s damage has affected around one million homes and businesses across the country.
Calls for British troops to assist the engineers were made in the House of Commons, as ministers came under fire for failing to provide an update to MPs on the impact of the storm for a second successive day.
MPs heard Northern Powergrid believes the damage is “more extensive than initially realised”, with Conservative MP Richard Holden (North West Durham) warning some households are “potentially facing weeks without electricity”.
Gemma Douglas, from West Allerdean, Northumberland, said she had “never seen anything like this” in her area.
“It has been exhausting… trying to keep warm, cook, is hard work,” the 39-year-old project development officer told the PA news agency.
#StormArwen update:Over 90% of properties have been reconnected. However, 45,000 homes are without power. Thousands of engineers are working to reconnect customers as quickly and safely as possible.#PowerCut #PowerCuts pic.twitter.com/7EO4m9Hx66
— Energy Networks Association (@energynetworks) November 30, 2021
“I have never known anything like this.
“Where we live, there is no back-up system – we’re on our own… so many people (nearby) are without any help and it’s scary and worrying.”
The ENA has urged powerless customers to make alternative arrangements for accommodation, by staying with friends or family wherever possible as the Met Office predicts a milder Tuesday – but warns highs of 12C will be the warmest of the week for most.
Indra Rampersad van Boeckel from in Ford, Berwick-upon-Tweed, has been without power since Friday evening and saw her shed crushed by a neighbouring tree.
“It’s heartbreaking really… it’s not easy even making a cup of tea on a stove,” the 42-year-old dentist told PA.
“The house is just a mess… We have burned our full stash of candles and had to get lots of extra supplies.
“(When) the power goes off, that’s a different league.”
David Hill, 40, from Alford in Aberdeenshire highlighted the “positives” as the community has “pulled together”.
“We definitely pulled together, checking on each other to make sure the neighbours were OK,” the Health and Safety Consultant said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is “extremely sympathetic” to those impacted by the power outages.
“It must be appalling. I think a million homes lost their electricity and 950,000 have seen that electricity now restored, but clearly for 50,000 people that is not good enough, and I want to reassure everybody that we’re working as hard as we can to get power back to those homes.
“All I can say is that the gusts were going at 100mph and, talking to the people who operate the grid, that they say that they had absolutely… there was nothing that they could do about it, but we are doing everything we can to restore power, talking to Northern Powergrid and everybody else to get that fixed.
“I appreciate it must be a very, very tough time for those homes that are currently without power.”
If you like mild weather, then make the most of Tuesday. For most of us, it will be the warmest day of the week 📈
But will it be dry or wet and sunny or cloudy?
— Met Office (@metoffice) November 29, 2021
The Met Office has predicted a milder Tuesday but added that highs of 11C will be the warmest of the week for most, followed by another dip in temperatures on Wednesday night.
A spokesperson for the ENA said: “Supporting and reconnecting customers is our absolute priority and our customer teams are working around the clock to contact customers and keep them informed.
“We are also working with other utilities, local authorities, emergency services and the British Red Cross to support this effort.”
Scottish Energy Secretary Michael Matheson has described the impact on the power network in the country as “unprecedented”, adding: “I think it’s three times the number of faults experienced during the Beast from the East (in March 2018).”
Conservative MP Mr Holden said thousands of people in his area, Cumbria and north Yorkshire remain without electricity.
He said: “This morning we were informed by Northern Powergrid that the damage is more extensive than initially realised with some households potentially facing weeks without electricity.”
We've restored power to 218,750 of the 240,000 customers who have been affected by #StormArwen. Our teams are working around the clock and we continue to do all we can to safely restore supplies as soon as possible for the remaining 21,250 customers still affected. pic.twitter.com/K0GYMJHZ5K
— Northern Powergrid (@Northpowergrid) November 29, 2021
Mr Holden said towns and villages are “pulling together”, adding: “But given the scale of what’s going on, and issues like water pumps now not being available to feed animals and get waters to households, it’s clear that more action is needed.
“My understanding is BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) has offered Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (Maca) this weekend, but Northern Powergrid refused it.”
BEIS is not understood to have made such an offer, although the Department for Levelling Up and Communities has formally offered support to the Scottish Government and personnel stand ready to provide aid should the need arise.
Liberal Democrat Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) also told MPs: “What is clearly needed is support for Electricity North West engineers, who are working really hard around the clock to solve this problem, so we need to bring in the Army.
“We also need to bring in generators so no community is without energy for a fifth successive night.”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said a statement is needed from the Government, adding: “If a statement is not forthcoming I’d suggest again that an urgent question if applied for may be considered.”
The Met Office’s Stephen Dixon said the weather will be “turning colder” from Wednesday due to a northerly wind, adding: “Winds will be especially high in exposed coastal areas in the north and north-east, with gusts in excess of 40mph expected.
“The cool conditions will see some snow fall in the high ground of the far north, and generally as sleet or rain in low ground.
“That theme continues into Thursday, with a band of rain moving in from the west later in the day.”
Forestry England has also urged people to stay away from its woods in much of northern England in the aftermath of Storm Arwen.