Britain should prepare for more extreme weather, government warns after Storm Arwen

Climate crisis means UK will face greater risks in the future, presenting greater infrastructure challenges, says business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Friday 03 December 2021 12:29 GMT

Britain can expect greater disruption from storms in the future and should prepare for more extreme weather following the chaos wrought by Storm Arwen which brought snow and high winds to much of the country earlier this week, ministers have warned.

Thousands of homes remain without electricity after winds that hit speeds of almost 100mph ripped across parts of northern England and Scotland, tearing down power lines, uprooting trees and causing snow drifts and debris blockages on roads.

Even as people still affected by the storm described it as a “nightmare” and spoke of feeling “abandoned,” ministers suggested such impacts could become increasingly frequent due to the worsening climate crisis.

The business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng described the storm as unlike any other, and though he promised to do everything possible to restore power to homes affected before Christmas, also suggested people across the country could do more to prepare for extreme weather.

Five days after the storm, as many as 30,000 people remain without power.

Mr Kwarteng said: “Clearly, Storm Arwen was an event the likes of which we haven’t seen for certainly 60 years since the record starts.

"We have to be prepared for similarly extreme, difficult weather conditions in the future. We have to make sure that our system is resilient in that eventuality."

Asked by the shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, if “lessons” had been learned as “extreme weather events will sadly become all the more common in the future”, Mr Kwarteng said his department would “of course be looking at the lessons we can learn from Storm Arwen to build an even more resilient power system in the future”.

Mr Kwarteng told the House of Commons: “Storm Arwen brought severe weather including winds of up to 100mph, wind, rain, snow and ice, causing the most severe disruption since 2005.

“Many people across the country, but particularly in northern England and Scotland have been without power for a number of days. Three people have tragically lost their lives in incidents related to the storm… We’re all working incredibly hard to make sure that normal conditions return.”

He also said the weather had hampered efforts to restore power where such high windspeeds had only been recorded twice in the past 25 years, while “much of the damage was in remote, hard to reach places”.

The Energy Networks Association said electricity has been restored to 97 per cent of those affected but it will be at least the end of the week – seven days after the storm – before it is back on for a minority.

Welfare centres and hot food have been provided, with energy network companies working with local resilience forums, emergency services, local authorities and the British Red Cross.

Additional reporting by PA.

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