[23.30 update 24th March below] As of 09.00 on 24th March, the situation in Kintyre is:
SSE have unloaded the 7MW of generators they brought in with the heroic CalMac ferry, MV Hebridean Isles, sailing round the Mull in bad conditions and getting into Campbltown before midnight last night.
We understand that these generators are now deployed.
[Update 09.45: MV Hebridean Isles has left her berth and is on the way out of Campbeltown Loch. 10.00: She's now east of Davaar Island and has turned south, heading back round the Mull for Kennacraig. 11.15: she has an ETA of 20.20 at Kennacraig - which seems over long. She's currently half way up the west coast of the Mull. 13.00 - north of Gigha and turning east into the mouth of West Loch Tarbert. 17.00 The Heb Isles is in the Sound of Gigha and is showing Campbeltown as her destination, with an ETA of 20.15]
Lochgilphead police confirm that the A83 remains closed from Tarbert to Campbeltown, with work ongoing to clear the heavy snow drifts.
The road is expected to open at some time later today BUT it will not at first be open to private motorist. The priority must go to tankers and trucks carrying in supplies of fuel and food. These will be convoyed through when passage is possible.
A rescue helicopter flew in supplies three times yesterday to the empty village store at Blackwaterfoot in the south of Arran.
The B842 is also closed in both directions with snow at the A83 junction at Millknowe Road.
The cold weather is forecast to continue well into the coming week.
The other roads elsewhere in , to and from Argyll, listed below, remain in the same condition as for some days, with dangerous driving conditions due to persisting high winds and, in some case, to continuing blizzard conditions. These are:
A83 Operating normally at Rest and Be Thankful. See here for arrangement for works on the Rest and Be Thankful section until late March 2013.
A83 from 22 March onwards – closed between Tarbert and Campbeltown – snow drifts, particularly between Kennacraig and Clachan. Likely oto be closed for some time.
B8001 and B842 closed from 22nd March onwards – the B001 from A83 to Skipness and B842 from Skipness to Carradale, down the east side of the Kintyre peninsula, past the collapsed SSE pylons and high tension power lines at Crossaig.
A85 Dalmally from 22nd March – road just passable on A85 in both directions at the B8077 junction, because of snow and strong winds.
B842 closed at Dalaruan Street in Campbeltown at the A83 Millknowe Road junction, because of snow.
Bad news for Arran – the CalMac Kintyre-Arran ferry from Claonaig-Lochranza-Tarbert-Lochranza is cancelled for today due to weather causing a heavy swell. The main Arran ferry from Ardrossan in Ayrshire into Brodick is sailing normally.
Tarbert-Portavadie 24th March CANCELLED – as of 16.15 for the rest of today – due to East South easterly winds gusting up to 45 knots.
Kennacraig-Port Askaig/Port Ellen: 24th March as of 16.22: In response to a request for Emergency assistance in transporting critical equipment to Campbeltown, one of the Islay ferries has been deployed to Campbeltown this evening. The 0700hrs sailing from Port Ellen to Kennacraig & the 0945hrs sailing from Kennacraig to Port Ellen on Monday 25th March have therefore been withdrawn. An additional sailing will operate from Port Askaig to Kennacraig at 2030hrs this evening. Customers are advised that Kennacraig terminal is still without power & telephones. Roads to & from Kennacraig are still affected by the recent snowfall.
All other CalMac ferries are sailing,some under Amber alert on possible disruption at short notice.
Argyll Ferries passenger service between Gourock and Dunoon is now [20.00] CANCELLED for the remainder of today. The company warns that the service may also be liable to disruption tomorrow, 25th March.
Western Ferries are back in service with some scheduled sailings cancelled. Phone 01369 704452 for further updates.
[Update 11.00 24th March: The cruise ship, MV Hebridean Princess, is on her way north up the Kintyre peninsula with her destination showing as Tayvallich in Loch Sween, ETA 14.45 - which should at least be a diversion for residents. 16.00 The Hebridean Princess is currently tooling about in the Corryvreckan.]
And there’s always a smile. If you phone the Argyll and Bute Council helpline this morning [01546 604040] - you get no information but if you hang on you’ll hear a dalek voice refer to ‘Arjeal and Bute’. The Kintyre peninsula is certainly ‘arjealed’. We have a new word for a sever emergency of this order.
11.30 update: SSE / Scottish Hydro say that the Co-op and Tesco in Campbeltown are now open and the local hospital is serving hot food. They have helicopters patrolling the network to identify damage and airlift engineers to isloated areas. More generators are on route this morning and they aim to have more supplies progressively restored throughout the day.
13.00 update: Post Codes in Argyll and Bute known to be affected by SSE / Scottish Hydro power outages are:
Grogport area, E Kintyre
Crossaig Lodge and surrounding area
Helensburgh and Lomond
Update 14.15: SSE report
See are saying in their latest update that they have connected 1,000 homes in Arran and 1,000 homes in Campbeltown ‘through mobile generation’ [the generators brought in by sea to both places]. However, they say that, as of this morning, ’5,000 homes remain without power across Kintyre’, as do 2,000 homes in Arran.
They say that with many roads still blocked by snow, they have access difficulties in getting engineers to the locations of damage to their network.
We note that the SSE statement no longer limits the number of collapsed pylons at Crossaig to three. They say: ‘The high voltage transmission network that connects the Kintyre peninsula and Arran is substantially damaged and several [Ed: our emphasis] steel towers have collapsed under the weight of ice on the conductors near Crossaig in Kintyre. Repair of this line remains an absolute priority and we have engineers ready to start repairs when able to access the area.’
With restoration of power an absolute priority, the investigation if the collapse of these steel pylons will have to come later. It becomes increasingly incredible that these pylons could have collapsed with the weight of ice on the connectors in the temperatures that prevailed. One has to enquire about the robustness of the structures themselves.
For Campbeltown and Arran, the bottom line is that until this power line is restored to operation, SSE will only be able to continue to supply selected home clusters with generators. They hope to get five more into Arran and two more int0 Campbeltown later today.
They are asking customers supplied in this way to use the power with restraint.
In terms of prognostications for restoration of service, some in more remote areas will be unlucky in both Arran and Kintyre, facing another night at least with no power.
SSE say: ‘We expect to return power to the majority of homes on Arran by the end of today, although local damage and access issues may mean customers in more rural areas, will still be without power overnight.
‘For Kintyre, we expect to restore a large number of customers in the south of the peninsula during today, centred around Campbeltown. Unfortunately, due to continuing severe conditions further north hampering access, we expect customers in more rural areas to be off supply overnight.’
They have now got five mobile catering units on Arran and three in Kintyre.
Update 15.45 – more SSE news
SSE have just said that more generators have arrived in Campbeltown with others to arrive later. From now on and during the evening customers in Campbeltown town centre will have an erratic power supply while these generators are connected.
With access to network damage sites still difficult, customers in rural areas in Kintyre will again have no supply tonight.
Update 16.45 – MV Hebridean Isles on the move again
Islay’s CalMac ferry, MV Hebridean Isles is now on her way out of West Loch Tarbert, turning south to run inside the Isle of Gigha. She is not yet showing a credible destination [Kennacraig] but is likely to be heading back round the Mull and into Campbeltown Loch with a second load of generators for SSE.The Islay ferry schedule has been rearranged to allow for a one-ship operation for the relief of Campbeltown.
Update 17.10 – Troon Lifeboat on way home from Arran
Troon lifeboat is on her way home from a triangular mercy run of some kind to Arran. She first went northwest to Lochranza, then south down the coast of the island where, off Lamlash, she swung east straight back to Troon.
Update 17.20 – Campbeltown and Machrihanish
Campbeltown’s Tesco and Co-op opened for a few hours but shelves are now said to be empty.
Petrol stations are not selling diesel as this is needed for the SSE generators.
Reports are coming through that there are 18 power line poles down between Campbeltown and Machrihanish – and that it may be up to a week before this supply is restored.
Update 18.25 – progress of MV Hebridean Isles
The Hebridean Isles is now off Machrihanish, in the north west of the Mull of Kintyre and directly west of Campbeltown. She’s making good progress in her passage to Campbeltown, carrying essential equipment including more generators. Her ETA at Campbeltown is 20.15.
Update 20.45 – Hebridean Isles in entrance to Campbeltown Loch
Only half an hour late in her passage round the Mull from Kennacraig, MV Hebridean Isles is arriving at a berth at Campbeltown Harbour, with a second delivery of emergency equipment and supplies for the Campbeltown area.
The SSE request to people in the area who are on temporary power to use it with restraint appears to be, at least partly because some folk rushed to switch on washing machines and ovens, causing the generators to be hit with demand surges they are not equipped to deal with.
This power source is not the same as mains power and needs to be used sparingly by each household for rudimentary heating and single hob ring cooking. The heavy usage patterns today have been giving the hard pressed engineers a lot more work to do. SSE would be grateful if users were sensitive to this situation.
It has been pointed out to us by a reader that the Scotsman online has a photograph of a section of the A83 which appears to be cleared, although with a snow bank on one side. We think that this is taken facing westwards on the road to Kennacraig from Tarbert, which is likely to have been in use today for emergency vehicles only.
Update 22.15 – A83 to reopen under convoy tomorrow
Argyll and Bute Council have announced that the A83 will reopen from Clachan at 7.00am tomorrow morning – 25th March, operating under police convoy.
This is possible because, as the police told us and we reported here earlier today, the A83 has actually been open today for essential supplies of fuel and food and vehicles with SSE engineer and equipment to be convoyed through first.
The road may still have to be closed for periods during the day, for maintenance purposes – but the Council will update on the situation regularly via its website here and on its Twitter site at @argyllandbute (see #Campbeltown and #Kintyre).
The Couuncil has confirmed that the MV Hebridean Isles has brought a Co-op food truck into Campbeltown this evening – reported above – along with the additional generators and more SSE staff.
Council staff have been providing hot food in Victoria Halls, Campbeltown from 8pm tonight. Local volunteers and businesses have also offered assistance, providing hot food, heavy machinery and opening stores to ensure that people are able to get food and other supplies.
It is being made clear that resources now in the peninsula are being prioritised to protect the most vulnerable and the Council is making a plea for people only to use fuel and power for essentials – on the basis that if everyone uses less power, more people can be kept supplied and safe.
Update 23.30 – SSE’s close of day summary
At the end of today, the key elements of SSE’s summary statement on progress and work to come is in these paragraphs:
‘During the course of today, we have reconnected over 2,000 homes.This leaves around 3,500 homes in Kintyre and 1,500 on Arran without power overnight.
‘Although the overall picture is improving, we are still faced with access issues, particularly on the smaller roads near our power lines which remain blocked with deep drifts of snow. However we are working closely with the local authorities to resolve these issues.
‘In addition, where we have been able to access the network, we are discovering further significant damage to both our distribution and transmission network. Therefore, much of our focus is on connecting customers via mobile generation while we continue to work on repairs to the main network. However, it is possible that a number of rural and more isolated areas should be prepared for a longer wait for a connection while we repair the main network. This may take a few days.’
This looks like a continuing bad time in increasingly colder weather for those living outside the towns; and continuingly daunting physical challenges in awful conditions for the engineers who are the gold-standard workhorses of the energy giants.