By Olivier Tallis
Cumbrians have been left in the dark, literally and figuratively, since communities in the county lost power on Friday.
Nearly 100,000 people in the Northwest have been without power since Storm Arwen decimated the power grid, high winds and snow delaying repairs.
With many unable to heat their homes in the snow, cook hot food, or take hot showers, the situation is dire.
Yet the main anger is directed at Electricity North West’s lack of communication which has left people guessing if or when power will return.
With food vans and support centers being set up in major towns and villages like Alston and Coniston, smaller and more isolated settlements have reported radio silence from the power company.
Harold and Judith Harrison, both almost 70 years old, live on an unnamed small road between Ivegill and Stockdalewath and have had no electricity for about 90 hours.
“We had no contact at all,” Mr. Harrison said.
“Electricity North West’s complete failure to keep us sufficiently informed has been frankly unbearable. ”
Their daughter, who lives in Manchester, checked the utility company’s website postcode checker, who yesterday said power had been restored to Mr and Mrs Harrison.
Something that was clearly not the case.
This anger was reflected by Valerie Abraham and her husband Reginald.
The 73-year-old was also without power at her remote cottage in Matterdale.
Due to heavy snowfall, she said the roads were impassable and had no heating.
“It is a dire situation,” she said. “It’s not knowing who is the worst.
“If we knew it would be a two week break, we could do something, but it could take hours, it could be days, we just don’t know.
“Everyone that Electricity North West employs and no one has been able to contact us. It is surprising.
After writing to customer support and the CEO, she said she had not received a response from the utility company.
She also said she called the office of MP Dr Neil Hudson yesterday, who informed her that Electricity North West would be making a welfare call.
Such a call was not made.
Stephanie Trubshaw, Incident Manager and Director of Electricity North West Customers: “We understand the frustrations of customers and want to reassure them that we are doing everything we can to restore power as quickly as possible.
“Providing an accurate time for the restore was a priority for us, but it was important for us to understand the extent of the damage to the network so that we could provide this information.
“Because the damage is so extensive, it means some customers will go without supply for a few more days. We encourage these clients to make alternative arrangements where possible and continue to proactively reach out to our clients who may be in particularly vulnerable circumstances. ”
Overnight, the company’s online power outage list was updated with estimated restore times given for areas still without power.
Engineers working at night
Hundreds of engineers worked through the night to make vital repairs and resources were mobilized from the south.
A spokesperson added that the company’s contact center had received 60,000 calls since Friday – normally around 30,000 per month.
As the company struggles to reconnect electricity and keep people informed, Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale called for the military to enlist to resolve the crisis.
He said that while he understood that engineers were working around the clock, more immediate action was needed.
If a fault is not listed on the website, they can call our contact center on 105.
To view up-to-date information on power outages go to: www.enwl.co.uk
* 12:40 – Food has been restored for Valerie Abraham and her husband Reginald.