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MARTEL MAXWELL: Storm Arwen has left us powerless – and running out of patience

Martel is still without a power supply as SSEN workers battle to repair lines following Storm Arwen on Friday.
Martel is still without a power supply as SSEN workers battle to repair lines following Storm Arwen on Friday.

At 6pm on Friday when the lights went out at home, Storm Arwen seemed like a bit of an adventure.

By 6pm on Sunday, my husband was turning into Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

Turns out there’s nothing adventurous about not being able to flush a toilet for two days with three young boys.

There was no power – no heat, running water or light – everything descending into pitch blackness by 5pm.

Most people I talked to had no power issues, though a few were wiped out for a day – others had fallen trees dent their garages or block roads.

Everything, of course, is put into perspective when you hear three people were killed by falling trees in Storm Arwen.

No matter how cold I was, I couldn’t help think about others who were worse off.

Worst of all, what if no one knew about them?

What about people who were vulnerable and alone?

The cold was bitter enough for us but unimaginable for people who didn’t have the ability to burn logs or get a spare duvet from the cupboard.

I hope everyone is okay.

Storm Arwen was a lesson for the kids

On the first night, I told my eldest this was like a history lesson.

He’s been learning about the Celts at school and this was his chance to see what kids back then did.

With no TV, we could play family games and have fun without technology.

This wholesome image of The Waltons lasted 20 minutes – until the illusion was spoiled by the ecstatic discovery of an iPad which had some charge left on it.

I explained I couldn’t cook tea.

“It’s okay, we’ll just have a toastie,” one said.

Er, nope.

“Hot chocolate? Toast? Soup?”

Nope, nope, nope.

A birthday Lego present (poor Chester had cupcakes by candlelight for his seventh birthday and not the new movie I’d promised on Amazon) couldn’t be seen to build, by the dim light of the fire.

It’s all very well being environmentally friendly (we try – with a ground source heat pump and solar panels to charge the electric car) but what happens when the electricity goes?

The car can’t move and you freeze.

This has made me see there has to be a Plan B – whether that’s a generator or a log burner. For some people, having something in place really could be a matter of life and death.

Customer care has been lacking in places

I am full of respect for the engineers trying to make repairs.

They have been braving rain, high winds and freezing temperatures to restore our power.

But the estimated ‘fix it’ times for our repair by SSE has thus far changed 10 times – and been pushed back four days.

From 10am to 3pm, then 10pm, then 10am the following day – and so it starts afresh.

As I write, we still have no power.

A pal with newborn baby finally got through to SSE and they advised her not to check out of the hotel she was in because they were trying to find an engineer and it wouldn’t be happening any time soon.

Is it too much to expect that in freezing conditions, with snow lying, they might have found an engineer before four days had passed?

Ballumbie Golf Club’s driving range was completely destroyed during storm Arwen.

A lot of this experience has been down to luck of where you live.

Most of Fowlis had power restored after a day or so – but a minute’s drive away in Balruddery, residents are still in the dark.

I know the Carnoustie area was badly hit too.

Oddly, even with the winds down now, new power cuts are being reported across Dundee, with some schools even shutting.

I’ve gone from trusting the people who know best to wondering how prepared they really were for anything like this happening.

While the storms were unusually strong, it’s not entirely unexpected that this would happen in Scotland.

After a few days of no water, light or heat, you simply can’t live at home safely – or sanely.

You might be able to tell I’m losing patience quickly. But I’ll be darned if I know who will listen to me.

No need to profit from our misery

A pal decided enough was enough and phoned up to see how much a hotel would cost, after two days without power.

When they quoted £140 she decided to sleep on it.

People make their way through the wind and rain in Dundee city centre as Storm Arwen blows in.

She woke in a freezing house and decided ‘to heck with it,’ she’d treat herself and hope for power to be back on soon.

So she called that next morning – only to be quoted a different price – almost triple the original.

Turns out lots of people in houses with no power have had the same idea.

I understand market forces and profit for businesses is essential.

Prices understandably go up as availability goes down.

But a wee bit of understanding towards locals in need would have bred more loyalty in the long run.


MARTEL MAXWELL: Inside Central Station TV series reminds me why I love this place

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