Government report into Storm Arwen says it recognises that power cuts were 'unacceptably long'

Storm Arwen power cuts were ‘made worse by wind from unusual direction’ says Government report. Credit: PA

The Government has acknowledged people in the North East affected by Storm Arwen suffered 'unacceptably' long power cuts and that wait times to speak to operators were too high.An interim report has been released into the response to the storm last November which led to just under 1 million households experiencing power cuts, 59,101 of whom were without power for over 48 hours and 3,032 for a week or more.

It recognised that the 'atypical' wind direction meant that Storm Arwen had a significant impact compared to many storms that have come before it.

It said: "The atypical northerly wind direction caused more damage than wind gusts coming from the prevailing south-west would have done.

"As a result, Storm Arwen brought unacceptably long power cuts to thousands of households, especially those in rural areas."

It added that operators should better account for the risk that wind direction and speeds can have on the network in their storm response.

Some areas of the North-East saw wind gusts of almost 100 mph, and some Northumberland residents told ITV News that they felt 'deserted' after being left without power for ten days during the storm.

92-year-old Cecil, from Cockfield in County Durham spent seven lonely days without power, and in total darkness, unable to cook, wash or watch television.

The report said: “We consider this to be a significant number of customers to be off the power supply for such a prolonged period of time, in particular during the winter conditions.

“For comparison, during the 2013 Christmas storms, only 0.8% of affected customers (7,448) were left without power for more than three days.”

After identifying areas of the response to Storm Arwen that required further investigation, the Government report recommended strategies to reduce the length of time customers remain off supply following severe and widespread power disruption.

This includes the rollout of generators by operators, which it said were 'critical' to reducing the length of power cuts before full repairs could be completed.

However, the interim report noted that, there were limitations in providing and refuelling enough generators for all those affected by Storm Arwen and that some power firms prioritised the use of generators over sending their staff to start work on repairs.

It recognised that operators prioritised the safety of its staff working in what it says were 'very difficult conditions,' some of whom were working in remote locations, but said that this affected the length of time customers waited for their power to be restored.

A fallen power line caused by Storm Arwen shows the extent of the damage Credit: PA

The interim report also recommended that new processes for issuing compensation payments to affected customers should be created and that payments should handed out immediately, without delay.

A number of residents in the North East who lost power after Storm Arwen told ITV Tyne Tees that they had been underpaid compensation from Northern Powergrid.

Paul Glendinning, Director of Policy & Markets at Northern Powergrid, said: “The reviews are looking to learn lessons from one of the worst storms seen in decades.  We are fully engaged in the process with Government and industry colleagues.

"Whilst we await the government’s final report we have already started to implement some of the lessons learned, which our customers have seen in the recent storms – and they will see again today if Storm Eunice causes disruption to our region.”