I hope I’m right in saying that North Ron is back to normal! It has been an interesting couple of days!
Storm Caroline broke a few of our power lines so we’ve been without power for much of the last 2 days. It seems one of the problems was a couple of broken lines at the crossroads at the south end of the island, every gust brought the broken wires together and shorted out the island generator. I can tell you, that was seriously creepy having the lights flick on and off as the genny shorted, of course at the time we had no idea what was going on or how long this was going to last.
My house is totally electric so no Rayburn for heating or cooking, we got as much of our meal ready as possible, we only needed 20 minutes of power to cook our pasta – we got 3! We managed to boil the kettle and put it in with the pasta, amazingly it did actually cook in the boiled water so the Thursday night we did have a meal!
We were still without power on Friday morning so we were approaching the danger zone for the freezers. The power went off around 1:30pm on Thursday so we sprang into action. By an amazing stroke of luck, my late grandfather had a small generator for holidays in Peebles so we inherited it. It was a godsend! We dug it out, battled the snow to get some fuel for it – of course the instructions on how to use it were in the computer, not much use there in a power cut eh?
The wee genny drank fuel quicker than we expected so we couldn’t run it as long as we’d hoped and it was only a 2kw genny so we could get the freezers back up to temperature (or back down to temperature?) and we managed to cook some more past on the induction heater my folks bought from Lidl a couple of years ago, didn’t know why or when we would use it but now I’m glad they got it!
The house was freezing, it’s amazing how quickly a house can lose heat, so the thermals, that we hadn’t needed this year, were dug out and the blankets were layered up to keep warm. We looked like we were about to head out on an artic expedition rather than just sitting in the house reading a book!
The pilots were trying to fly out to the island, they were on standby in Kirkwall waiting and hoping for a break in the weather but it didn’t come. I was on plane duty through Thursday and Friday, wasn’t long off the phone to the co-ordinator saying that the 2nd flight had been cancelled and we were done for the night when Billy drove down the driveway in the digger, blaring the horn. No idea what was going on, I climbed out the chair as quick as I could (I have an electric recliner chair which was stuck in the reclining position when the power went off!).
Apparently the coastguard had managed to get a hold of Billy, they were landing on the island at 3pm and bringing the SSE engineers! So I’m getting my layers on when another colleague at the airfield turns up at the door to tell me the coastguard are coming. He works for Scottish Water, I hadn’t even thought about the water! We need power to pump the water into the tank so as much as it was an emergency for us, it was an even bigger emergency for the island which was soon to run out of water!
The folks came with me to the airport with their cameras – they’ve never seen a coastguard helicopter up close and thankfully this visit was bringing salvation for us instead of picking up someone in dire need of medical attention.
Predictably the helicopter never even noticed the wind that was causing so many problems for us, thank god for the coastguard! The engineers wasted no time in fixing one of the problems – within an hour of them being on the island, we had power through the night! No idea how they managed that, half of that hour was in complete darkness!
The next day though the power was on and off throughout the day as the engineers tried to find the next problem, it took them most of the day working out in snow showers that were so thick at times, you couldn’t see a thing!
Our pilots did an amazing job getting our first 2 flights to the island in between snow showers! I was out late feeding beasts but judging by the fact that the stair lights in the lighthouse were on, I would say the north end finally had power.
I think the worst is over now and we’re getting back to normal, we’ve had a boat this morning, the snow has melted away and there shouldn’t be any problems for the flights getting in today. That was the worst hit the island has been in many years, it’s strange really because 3 years ago on the 8th/9th of December, we had the weather bomb. My dad and I were travelling from Edinburgh to North Ronaldsay to sign the tenancy agreement for my house, the wind was so strong that it took the two of us pushing against the door to close it, we had to walk bent double to stay on our feet and yet there was very little damage done on the island! Funny how it just has to hit you in the right place!
Anyway, I’d like to say a huge thank you to my neighbour who made us a coffee on his gas stove, Alex and Jack for offering the warmth of their home, the engineers who got the island running again and the coastguard who brought them here. I’ve no idea what we would have done if it hadn’t been for so many people working so hard together not only for us but the whole of Orkney and Shetland – it’s massively comforting to know that remote outlying areas aren’t forgotten in the chaos around the country.