Prepare for more extreme weather, Britons warned in wake of Storm Arwen

Storm Arwen was “an event the likes of which we haven’t seen for 60 years” and the UK needs to be prepared for more extreme weather due to the climate crisis, according to the business secretary, as more than 30,000 homes remain without power.

Kwasi Kwarteng said the majority of those people will have power restored “in the next day or two”, although he conceded some in remote locations may have to wait much longer.

Paying tribute to the three people who died in the storm, the business secretary said the exceptionally strong winds of almost 100mph had damaged power lines and required an enormous restoration effort by engineers.

The most severely affected areas are the Wear valley, surrounding Eastgate and north Northumberland, the north Peak District and the south Lakes in northern England, and Aberdeen and Perth in Scotland.

People work to pull a car back on to the road on the Buttertubs Pass in North Yorkshire.
People work to pull a car back on to the road on the Buttertubs Pass in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Urging those still without electricity to call 105, the minister conceded that the emergency power cut phone number did face initial pressure with unacceptable delays in the wake of Storm Arwen over the weekend, with reports of people having to wait up to two hours to get through.

“Clearly Storm Arwen was an event the likes of which we haven’t seen for certainly 60 years since the record starts. We have to be prepared for similarly extreme, difficult weather conditions in the future. We have to make sure that our system is resilient in that eventuality,” the business secretary told the House of Commons.

He was responding to questions from the shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, who said: “Faced with the climate crisis, extreme weather events will sadly become all the more common in the future. We cannot be this vulnerable in the future. There is real concern that some lessons haven’t been learned and on this occasion we must face up to those lessons and learn them.”

Storm Arwen: wild weather batters UK – video report
Storm Arwen: wild weather batters UK – video report

It will be at least the end of the week – seven days after the devastating storm first hit – before electricity is restored to some people, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) has said. Engineers have reconnected 97% of homes affected by the power cuts, with the majority of those still affected living in remote locations where access for crews is difficult, according to the ENA.

Welfare centres and hot food have been provided, with the energy network companies working in partnership with local resilience forums, emergency services, local authorities and the British Red Cross.

Chris Burchell, the managing director of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, apologised to customers. He said the impact of the storm had caused “catastrophic damage to the electricity network across the north-east of Scotland and is the most significant event we have ever had to deal with in the area in a generation”.

A fallen tree at Bodnant Garden in north Wales.
A fallen tree at Bodnant Garden in north Wales. Photograph: Paul Harris/National Trust/PA

The storm’s gale force winds also brought down thousands of trees, including irreplaceable specimens, according to the National Trust. The conservation charity said the full extent of the damage was still being assessed but was likely to cost at least £3m to repair.

More than 50 trees were uprooted at the trust’s Bodnant Garden in north Wales, including a 51-metre tall coast redwood, as well as many hybrid rhododendrons that are unique to the property.

Storm Arwen is also thought to have blown a rare sea turtle 5,000 miles off course, after it was discovered on a beach in north Wales. A couple from Holywell were walking their dog on Talacre beach in Flintshire on Sunday when they discovered the motionless creature. Marine experts identified the turtle as an Atlantic ridley, one of the most endangered species of sea turtle, which generally live off the Gulf of Mexico.

The couple revived the turtle, which was suffering from cold-water shock, and transferred it to Anglesey Sea Zoo where it will spend the next few months recuperating before being released back into its natural habitat.


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