Only 3 nights without power and many cannot cope (Storm Arwen)

Another unwelcome example of just how so many people in modern times (EVEN IN REMOTE AREAS)  are  ill equipped both mentally and practically to deal with a major weather event. And this includes the Local authorities and the utilities.

No land lines, no cell service, roads blocked across the UK by faling trees, downed power lines, landslips, floodwater  and drifting snow.  No open shops,  No heating or hot water, indeed no water at all in some places.  Many former urbanites who have relocated to rural areas have simply made no provision incase things go bad.

In many areas the only hot food available has come from charitable groups.

I must have said this a thousand times in my 40 years of prepping, but I’ll say it again.  You simply cannot rely on the state to come to your assistance in a large scale event. They simply do not have the resources.


Storm Arwen: ‘We can’t go another night without power’

After three nights without electricity, residents in the parts of Scotland worst affected by Storm Arwen are growing weary. 
In Torphins, Aberdeenshire, people are struggling to keep warm in sub-zero temperatures and are grateful for the hot food handed out by local good Samaritans.
Among them are Paul and Rebecca Murray, a father and his daughter, who are relying on the heat provided by a single gas heater.
“It’s been pretty horrific,” Rebecca told BBC Scotland. “The power went off on Friday. I live in a little council house and I’m a single mum of a three-year-old. In our house you can see our breath.
“Thankfully I could go round to my mum and dad’s house and they’ve got a gas heater, but aside from that we just had nothing.”

Paul and Rebecca have no phone signal to contact anyone and on Sunday there was no water. “It’s absolutely terrifying,” Rebecca said.
They’ve not been told by their energy provider when the power will be restored.
“I don’t think they know themselves,” said Paul. “They’re just trying their best to get it put back on.”

Fiona Fyfe said she was initially told the power would be restored on Friday night, but it has been repeatedly postponed.
Energy firm SSEN has now told her they hope to get her power back by 22:00 on Monday.
“I don’t think we can go another night without power,” she said.
“It’s been really, really cold. We’re lucky, we’ve got a stove and lots of logs but obviously with more snow, it’s just maddening, absolutely maddening.”
She said that food in her freezer is starting to defrost and she has to walk to the main road to get signal on her phone.

Andrew Hutcheon is among those dishing out hot food and drinks in Torphins. He runs Cafe 83 in Kemnay.
“Yesterday back in Kemnay, we didn’t have any power, the signal was down so we decided to throw the barbeque on, find some hot water, get some heat into people and get a feed into them,” he said
“It’s a bit of dire situation but everyone who’s coming to us is more upbeat because obviously they’re getting some hot food and hot drinks.”
He said the crews working to restore power have an “unbelievable” task ahead of them.
“Over the years we’ve obviously had a bit of wind but it’s never been anything like this – the amount of trees that are down in the forest, I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said
“Coupled with the freezing weather and the snow, it’s not ideal.”

Meanwhile in Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross, Debbie Martin has bought a second-hand generator after recently switching to fully-electric heating.
She has been told she could be without power until 11:00 on Tuesday because it is still too dangerous to remove trees which have fallen on to power lines.
She told the BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “You can’t do the things you would normally do.
“You can’t brush your teeth because your toothbrush is flat. You have to drive round in the car to charge your phone.
“To boil the kettle, I’ve been putting it on the log burner stove and it’s been taking an hour and a half.”

When you get a power cut, you just assume that it’s going to come back on in an hour or two, but obviously it hasn’t,” Debbie said.
She said it’s been “really difficult to get information” from her energy provider SSE.
“Everything in our house is electric. We’ve got an electric heating system, an electric cooker,” she added.
“We bought a second-hand generator in Dundee yesterday, so we’ve gone round a couple of neighbours’ houses to get their phones and iPads charged because people can’t contact relatives.”
‘Worst in decades’
Kenny Anderson, from Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire, is used to power cuts having lived in rural north-east Scotland all his life.
But he says the damage wreaked by Storm Arwen is the worst he has known in more than two decades.
He told the BBC: “Our power went off at four o’clock on Friday afternoon. We’re a bit lucky in that we’ve got a gas hob because we get two or three power cuts a year.
“They only usually last a few hours, or maybe a day. So this is the longest one we have had in 23 years.”
“I was brought up in Glenlivet in the 60s and 70s and I don’t remember power cuts ever lasting more than a day or two.”


  • Comments (24)

    • 6

      There are two ways to warm up. Warmth heating your skin and muscles from the outside and then there’s consuming warm food and beverages to warm you up from the inside out. A blend of both is the best to warm up fast, but if I had to pick only one method I would probably pick the warm food and drinks. That will warm up your core vital organs faster and keep you alive.

      Movement is another way to produce heat, as well as good insulation to your house and body with clothes or fat. 

    • 7

      Am I oversimplifying (or even showing my ignorance) when I say that the lady whose food is defrosting should just put some of it outside to keep frozen, especially if it’s snowing? I know how hot a fridge can get after it’s switched off so it’s probably colder outside than it is inside her freezer.

      I feel like, even if you aren’t prepared, you can at least be a little proactive.

      • 3

        I had the same thought when I read that part as well. Just stick your food outside if it’s thawing inside.

      • 4

        Me too. I’ve done it myself several times, wrapped the food in newspaper, then placed into a couple of totes and put out on the north side of the house. 

      • 3

        During the Beast from the East storm of 2010 when we lost power we just opened the back door in our kitchen , it was minus 8 outside, It stopped the freezer thawing.

      • 4

        That’s the word! Proactive. I think it’s difficult to be prepared for everything, however you can mitigate a lot of the effects that may affect you. 

        I don’t have a generator and I wouldn’t want one. I do have other alternatives and at the end of the day, I have insurance to cover the loss of the contents of the freezer.

        No.1 prep. Have the best home and contents insurance you can afford.

      • 2

        We put ours out in the snow, or just on the porch if it’s that cold, and make sure that it is in an animal-proof container.

    • 7

      This was my favorite part. Don’t just get through it. Take the opportunity to help your neighbors. 🙂


      “Yesterday back in Kemnay, we didn’t have any power, the signal was down so we decided to throw the barbeque on, find some hot water, get some heat into people and get a feed into them,” he said. “It’s a bit of dire situation but everyone who’s coming to us is more upbeat because obviously they’re getting some hot food and hot drinks.”

      • 3

        This! I couldn’t agree more. All it takes is one person to start something special.

    • 5

      Very interesting article and also a bit terrifying that some people were so unprepared. Having only an electric toothbrush and then not being able to brush your teeth during a power outage almost doesn’t compute to me. 

      • 1

        nor me, my toothbrush is electric but I can still use it to clean my teeth when the battery is flat, I mean, it is still a brush even if it doesn’t vibrate

        I do have a few ordanary toothbrushes in my BOB and in my camping gear but I don’t think I would get them out just because of a powercut 

    • 2

      One thing I haven’t been able to find anywhere is good advice on what to do about the water in my house in a situation like this (no power for days, below-freezing temperatures).

      My house is heated by a hydronic heating system fed by two very large gas-powered hot water heaters (they were there when I moved in, don’t judge!). So if I drain the pipes completely (which seems to be what some advise), that means draining the water heaters too – thus I’m assuming that means I also have to turn off the gas to the heaters? Is there any risk of damaging the water heaters if I leave them empty for days? I know nothing – seriously nothing – about plumbing so all advice welcome.  I’ve been obsessed about this ever since the deep freeze in Texas last winter.

      Is it ridiculous to assume I could keep hot water dripping through the pipes to keep them from freezing (like keep the bathroom and kitchen faucets on a hot drip)? Except the outdoor faucets don’t have a “hot” option. I saw somewhere that someone dumped antifreeze in their toilets? But is that….wise? Are municipal water systems designed to filter out antifreeze?

      • 1

        Dunno where you live but in most northern areas in the US / UK/ EU its insulating the pipes and ideally insulating the house itself.

        I know  many parts of the US the water pipes run outside of the house normally under the floor, they are often exposed to the element because extreme cold weather events are rare. But none the less they should be lagged and insulated.

      • 2

        Here in north Mississippi, it is not unusual for water pipes to freeze when we get very cold weather.  I have no idea why they don’t insulate the pipes better.  So when that cold weather comes, I run water from every fixture near an outside wall… hot & cold.  Some people say drip but I let a small stream run.  My outdoor faucets are all frost free & I have no issues with them.

        The cost of running water for a few days is much less than the cost of having a plumber & other workmen repair damage from busted pipes.

      • 3

        Hi ME 

        My heating uses a sealed circuit fired by an electric boiler (yes I have a back up heat source) the mixture in the pipes just goes round and round in a big loop. It is completely separate from the water I drink or the hot water for the shower/sinks.

        I’m by no means a plumbing or heating expert but here’s the questions I think I would be asking in your situation! 

        is the water in your heating system part of a sealed circuit (and separate from the water that comes through the faucet)

        Is it the same water getting heated by the gas boilers that cools as it goes through the pipes then returns to the boiler to be reheated?

        Or is it fed from the main water supply?

        Is the water in the heating system even water or does it contain an antifreeze already?

        Does the system also supply your hot water?  

        do the pipes run through exposed areas eg roof space or below the floor where they maybe more exposed to extremes of temperature?

        If they do can they be insulated to make the system more resilient?

        I personally wouldn’t run a gas boiler designed to heat water if there’s no water in it 🤷🏻‍♀️ I know what having  a kettle or pan boiling dry can do. 

        do your neighbors have the same heating system? What do they do? 
        Is it worth getting a plumber or heating engineer who specialises in such systems to come and explain it to you? Yes this will incur a cost but it maybe worth it to a) understand how the system works and what you need to watch out for b) be able to make a plan for a Texas deep-freeze scenario c) be able to not worry about it anymore because you’re prepared! 
        Sorry I don’t have an actual answer for you but I’d be interested to here what you decide. 

      • 3

        Unfortunately the company that installed it is no longer in business and other companies don’t want to give me any guidance- I guess they’re worried about liability if they give me bad advice!  

        The heating system also supplies the hot water for normal household use, which is wonderful because we never ever run out of hot water. I’ve never thought about it but I think it does recirculate water back into the boilers to keep heating until that water comes out a faucet somewhere. Given that I’ve lived here many many years with no problems, I think I’ll just stop obsessing and if we DO get a days-long powerless deep freeze like in Texas, I’ll just run hot water on a slow stream from every faucet and pray. Fortunately the only pipes that are in a pretty risky area in terms of insulation are under the South-facing, very dark roof, so perhaps there might be enough heat from that to keep them from bursting. Fingers crossed!

      • 1

        I don’t know your system but I am an engineer, if your heating is a closed system (like mine) and has it’s own header tank there’s nothing stopping you adding anti-freeze to it, just get a plumbers opinion because it might already have anti-freeze, they usually also have something to stop any steel pipes rusting. Short of that, draining and refilling the system isn’t to hard a task, find someone to teach you how to do it, then you’ll know, and you’ll be able to drain/fill it if you ever have a leak so win win 😉

        lagging and insulation only delay the freeze, if the outside temp remains below freezing through both day and night, the pipe will eventually cool down and freeze anyway, insulation just buys you time

        as for the water supply to the taps, just leave them all running a little, if the water is moving it would have to be very cold to start to freeze

        the other option is to have a woodburning stove (or two) or some gas heaters that don’t rely on electric fitted, if you can keep the house above freezing by other means then you’re pipes wont freeze

    • 2

      Six days now and parts of NE england still without power or power and water, and the area is blanketed with snow and ice.  A lot of people are learning powerful lessons in self reliance.

      Indeed this VERY rare northerly storm has done so much damage to many forested areas that some remote communities are still trapped behind over a mile of fallen trees up in Northumberland.

      A Tree surgeon  I know has been out now for six straight days .

      • 3

        In California, we have lost power for a very different reason – intentional shutdowns by the power companies during high winds which have the potential to collapse lines and cause fires.

        It is a hassle, but endurable.  you generally have advance notification, so it is a bit like training for a real emergency.  Some amount of solar generated power is really handy, because it is crucial to keep your cell phones working.  Power banks are good……You use your camping gear in unexpected ways…

      • 1

        What are the unexpected ways that you use camping gear?

      • 2

        Brewing that essential mug of coffee on my canister stove.  Taking a hot shower with my solar shower bag.

        I fully expect that in th aftermath of a big quake, wee might well be camping on our lawn, stov, tent, and all.

      • 3

        Pitching a tent in the living room to create a warm space.

    • 2

      I’ve been fuming at the media all week about this! I think those who weren’t prepared have the loudest voices! 
      Anyone who was prepared just got on with it. 

      it highlighted the need for communities to support each other and check on the vulnerable in such circumstances. I just hope the length of time it’s taken will encourage folk to be better prepared for next time (but I doubt it).

      On the upside how smug do I feel that I’d put together a ‘power cut box’ for my elderly relative back in September! 

    • 2

      The cold and outages sounds like last February here.it lasted 5 day’s and 4 nights.sub zero temp.busted water pipes in some of the other apartment’s and of course,no electric.the woman who complained about her freezer ain’t creative.i put my foods into my ice chest .then put them into my outside closet.food stayed cold n frozen.i had candles to keep the apartment warm.i have a neighbor who stayed in bed and covered up real good.other then that,she did nothing to stay warm.and got real cold when ever she went to use the restroom. I’m prepared for the next time that happens.