What Katie did

This Easter weekend saw one of the worst storms this year, and it struck central southern England with average wind speeds of 80mph and gusts of up to 106mph in some exposed coastal areas.

We knew Storm Katie was coming – we had been tracking its progress since Wednesday and preparing for its arrival. We increased our resources across all areas of the business for Easter Sunday and Monday. Despite the fact many in the business had prepared for a long Easter bank holiday weekend, they gave up their leave and cancelled plans so they could keep the lights on if Storm Katie were to do its worst. For that, I thank them.

The storm finally arrived on Sunday night, bringing with it heavy rain and winds that swept off roofs, closed the Severn Crossing, cancelled flights out of Gatwick and Heathrow airports and uprooted trees across a vast stretch of southern England.

None of the forecasts had predicted how ferocious Storm Katie would be. It was supposed to drift off into the east by 3am, but by 11am on Monday it was still with us, bringing down trees and blowing debris into our overhead lines. In the end we had 177 faults across our network. Our engineering teams worked long and hard through the night, where it was safe to do so, and then started again from early light. By late on Monday night we had restored supplies to more than 138,000 customers – with just around 200 who had to stay off overnight.

While our engineering, linesmen and technical staff restored power, our support and welfare teams worked in parallel to offer free hot meals and drinks and tended to our customers who might have needed additional help during a power cut. Of course, none of this work is possible without our call centre colleagues taking the initial call from our customer telling us where there might be an issue on the network.

All storms are unpredictable and no forecast is totally accurate, and we build this margin of error into our planning. It’s the ability of our teams to respond to this unpredictability that is a testament to their professionalism. Judging by the feedback on our social media channels, it’s not just me who appreciates this hard work and professionalism. Our customers do too.

About the author

Stuart Hogarth Director of Distribution

Stuart started work with SSE in 1979 as an apprentice at Peterhead Power Station. Stuart then moved to the Hydro Power stations and spent 17 years in a variety of roles including Group Manager for the Sloy\Awe group covering from Tarbet on Loch Lomond to Oban and Campbeltown. After moving to Perth in 2002 to work for Ian Marchant as Head of Business Improvement, he became Head of Operations for Power Distribution, responsible for the operation, maintenance and refurbishment of the Electrical Distribution network in the North of Scotland. Stuart was then involved in a number of development projects in England, before moving into the role of Distribution Operations Director based in Reading and responsible for the network in the South of England. Stuart is now Director of Distribution and is now responsible for all aspects of SSE's electricity distribution business across the UK.

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