Praise for council staff following week of severe weather
Leader of The Highland Council, Drew Hendry and Chief Executive Steve Barron praised council workers following a week of severe weather affecting the region.
Storm force winds caused havoc, leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power for days, bringing trees and branches down across roads and railway lines, damaging buildings and causing network and telecommunications problems across the area. The loss of power and storm damage also closed schools, nurseries and service points.
Senior staff took part in a multi-agency meeting response to deal with the impacts of the weather, ensure care for people and provide service continuity. Hundreds of council staff were involved in the response, working long hours and in atrocious conditions.
On Thursday afternoon, 8 January, additional staff were put on standby in anticipation of forecast weather and a warning was issued to the public.
The first call outs were at 2am on the Black Isle. From 7am on Friday 9 January, generally all available resources were mobilised and tasked with clear up operations, involving over 200 staff. This included over 30 chain saw squads from the Council, supplemented by 7 private contractors.
On Saturday and Sunday, depending on local situation, anything between 50% and 100% of the council’s resources were mobilised to resume the clear up.
Five reception centres were opened up as well as leisure centres, to give warmth and hot drinks and food to people without power. The Red Cross assisted with transport.
Estimate there were 128 sites where fallen trees resulted in a blockage, which varied from a single tree to up to 20 trees. Around 400 trees were cleared and significant resource required to clear up branches and debris causing a hazard.
By Tuesday, all power was restored, however, the severe weather continued with snow storms, ice and further gale force winds over the course of the week.
Leader of the Council Cllr Hendry said: “In what has been a period of weather related disruption, the scale of which is unprecedented in recent times, the Council has delivered an outstanding response, together with its partners in the Utilities, Police, Health and the Red Cross, over a period of several days.
“Across the region, the rail networks have been at a standstill, ferries disrupted, hundreds of roads closed with fallen trees, schools closed, and thousands of homes and businesses without power, many thousands of which for several days.
“Working in difficult conditions, council staff battled against the elements, to move around 400 fallen trees, re-open roads, clear culverts, manage structural damage to buildings, open reception centres for people affected by power cuts, and move resources to where they were most needed.
“Moving straight from one wind weather related incident into another, with snow blizzards, ice and the forecast of further strong winds, Council staff have had to deal with the recovery from the events of the weekend, as well as prepare for the continuing severe weather.
“The Utilities have delivered a remarkable response, repairing thousands of faults in atrocious conditions and restoring our electricity supplies and phone networks. They are to be commended.
I would particularly like to thank the Red Cross for the assistance of many volunteers in helping to care for people in communities affected by power cuts. I am sure I speak on behalf of all councillors in saying that everyone involved has delivered a tremendous response.”
Chief Executive Steve Barron added: “I want to thank staff on behalf of the Executive LeadershipTeam, for their resilience and commitment to the Council’s response to the extreme weather events which have affected the Highlands since last Thursday night. Those who have been directly involved in maintaining services and helping vulnerable people have done a fantastic job in very challenging circumstances.
“There have been tremendous challenges to address including, loss of power (often for extended periods), loss of communications and damage to infrastructure and we have responded magnificently in delivering vital services, providing reception centres, working together with partners and helping those folk who need us most at a time like this.
“It is during such times of challenge that the Council and its people show best what we are made of and many of you have done invaluable work in your services and in your communities. Thank you very much indeed for your efforts.”