Days without power on Islay

It seems a long time ago already, the terrible storm of January 3rd which caused a lot of material damage as well as long power outages for some. Susan Campbell, part-time editor of the Ileach Newspaper and good friend, wrote about her experiences during a very long power outage after the storm, wich was in fact the longest power outage in the whole of Argyll:

Susan: It was no surprise that on the morning of the 3rd January, wakening to the storm’s roaring, the electricity had gone off in the night. It had been such a noisy night, with the severe gale added to by thunderclaps and flashes of lightning.

The Rayburn’s timer switch had stopped at about 6am, and it was clear that work on the power lines was going to be delayed by continuing severe weather. So, carry in firewood, light the fire and wait it out. The storm continued, and it was becoming clear that this was going to be a long power outage. With a two-ring gas cooker, an open fire in a Victorian black range, and an assortment of candles and paraffin lamps, waiting it out seemed manageable. So on the Tuesday evening, kettle boiled and soup was heated over the fire for tea, and a sleeping bag and mat were brought into the warmest room to spend the night. Continue reading....

Next morning, Wednesday, still no electricity. The old phone which doesn’t need an electric supply had been brought out and plugged in, and SSE/Hydro Electric helpline gave a time later in the day for an update. Feeling chilly but positive, the best course of action seemed to go to where power was on. Neighbours said that Bowmore had power, so coming to use light/heat/internet connection seemed a useful way to spend the day. While in the village, the talk was all about the extensive and serious storm damage to properties around the island. Shopping for easily heated food was also a reasonable precaution, in case the power was still off at home on my return. Which it was. That evening, neighbours with a generator invited me for an evening meal and to stay the night with them, which was sociable and fun as well as kind and helpful.

On Thursday morning, the SSE helpline only advised a later update on reconnection of supply. Hmmmm. Back to Bowmore, for more electricity-sharing. On reaching home in the afternoon, still no power. Later, both the SSE and the Council phoned, checking whether my household was managing all right and offering hot meals in a hotel. Availing of the offer of hot meals would have meant either not lighting the fire or letting it go out and afterwards coming home to a very cold house, which didn’t appeal. It felt better to stay put and keep warm, even if the ‘cuisine’ was rather limited.

On the Friday morning, SSE were still advising later updates, and phoned again to see how I was faring, as did the Council. The day was spent knitting, reading when there was enough light, writing (with pen and paper!) and a bit of general housekeeping. A helicopter could be seen tracking the power supply lines across fields and towards the cottage. Surely repairs to the power lines wouldn’t be much longer? The cottage’s water supply pumps into a storage tank in the loft, and even with carefully limited use the water was now nearly used up. Bottled drinking water is always kept in case of need, and buckets of rainwater were carried in and boiled on the fire for washing-up. How different life in pre-electricity days would have been, and how time-consuming it is to do even the basic household tasks without the power we’ve become used to!

On Saturday morning, 7th January, SSE helpline still advised updates. But now there arrived in the area teams of SSE workers in vehicles and on foot, checking local lines and poles including equipment behind my cottage. The SSE guys said that the transformer on a pole nearest the cottage had been struck by lightning, and a replacement would be fitted. Just as it was getting dark, a cavalcade of SSE vehicles, along with Iain MacPherson’s digger, arrived behind my cottage and the workmen soon replaced the damaged transformer with the new one. And there was light! And even better, water was pumped in.

Later that evening, checking in on Twitter I wrote that my cottage’s electricity supply had finally been reconnected. Mike Russell MSP, a Twitter follower, replied; “last in Argyll, I think. Welcome back!”

Tag: storm power outage weather