Lochaber escapes worst impacts of Storm Arwen

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Lochaber and the rest of the West Coast escaped the worst of Storm Arwen which battered the eastern half of the UK with 90mph gusts on Friday, causing three fatalities and catastrophic damage.

Over the 24-hour period from 7am on Friday, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) received more than 900 emergency calls – almost three times the normal number.

John Dickie, the SRFS’s assistant chief officer, commented: ‘This has been an exceptional weather event and a challenging night.’

In the west, which usually gets the brunt of approaching storms, trains on the West Highland Line between Glasgow and Oban and Fort William were disrupted, alongside vital ferry services, especially over the Minch between Ullapool and Stornoway.

Surveying the damage on Saturday morning, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), which serves 3.8 million customer in the north of Scotland and England, reported ‘significant’ damage ‘due to fallen trees, branches, and other wind-blown debris striking network infrastructure.

SSEN experienced more than 300 high voltage faults and its operational teams successfully restored power to over 40,000 customers in extremely challenging conditions.

Around 75,000 customers current remain off supply, with the main areas affected being Aberdeenshire, Angus, Perthshire and the Moray Coast.

Elsewhere, a feed barge on a fish farm off Skye ended up submerged, forcing owners, the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC), and a team of divers, to carry out a recovery. No one was on board the facility, and there was no other damage to the fish farm.

And Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is urging members of the public to stay away from its forests.

The call comes as the organisation continues to assess the levels of damage to Scotland’s national forests and land and the associated risks to public safety.

Early indications are that forests across the country – particularly east coast sites – have been affected to some degree.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has praised the efforts of workers and all those responding to the emergency conditions caused by Storm Arwen.

Speaking ahead of a ministerial statement secured by the Scottish Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Halcro Johnston said: ‘Many parts of my region sustained a severe battering from the storm, with homes and businesses left without power, and roads closed by fallen trees and debris.

‘It has taken some time to put things right, and there as still some areas without power, but the efforts of power company workers, our emergency services and others involved has been remarkable. Many have worked through a number of days and nights in very challenging conditions.

‘That includes individuals and businesses which have stepped in to help those in their communities, providing food and supplies to make the situation a little more bearable. Sometimes the most simple of things, such as providing hot water for drinks or charging a mobile phone, can make a big difference.

‘We owe them all a deep debt of thanks for their efforts.’

Mr Halcro Johnston also urged those eligible to make sure they are registered for SSEN’s Priority Services Register (PSR) which aims to provide increased support for those who need it most.

He added: ‘However, with some folk cut off for days, and others still waiting to be reconnected, it is important that lessons are learnt from this situation and, where possible, improvements are made to our resilience.

‘Given this is extremely unlikely to be the last challenging weather we experience in the next few months, I would urge folk who are vulnerable – or who know others who are vulnerable – to make sure they are registered on SSEN’s Priority Services Register (PSR).

‘This register should ensure additional help and support is provided to those who need it most during power cuts.’