Hopes of restoring power within 48 hours of Storm Arwen carnage were dashed as emergency responders were forced to flee deadly gales, a top official has revealed.
More than 60,000 properties were left without electricity as the dangerous 90mph winds blasted the north-east at the end of November.
The military were called to help amid fears around 8,000 homes could have been left in blackout for more than a week – with some in Aberdeenshire enduring outages lasting 10 days.
Storm Arwen: Authorities thought power supplies would be restored to all Aberdeenshire homes within 48 hours
A new report details how the council will learn from Arwen.
It reveals that SSEN engineers were forced to abandon repairs to electricity supplies as the gales ravaged the area at the height of the storm on Friday November 26.
The last homes were finally reconnected on the evening of December 5.
Council staff dealing with some of the “well over 100 trees” brought down on the roads, as well as trying to clear snow and ice, were also withdrawn.
The briefing, put together by business services director Ritchie Johnson, explains that emergency agencies overseeing the response vastly underestimated how long people would be forced to go without power.
He told councillors: “Aberdeenshire Council, in common with our partners, were working to the assessment that power would be restored within 24-48 hours.
“But as the incident progressed it became clear that full power restoration to all properties could take a considerable amount of time.”
Toll of Storm Arwen on Aberdeenshire Council coffers as yet unknown
The full cost of the storm to the local authority is yet to be totalled up, with relief funding available through the government’s Bellwin scheme.
A national review of the storm response is expected to be published by the Scottish Government this month.
Hundreds of thousands of trees were felled by the winds, with estimates of more than 100,000 being lost in the grounds of Haddo House alone.
In the fortnight following the storm, welfare centres were set up, sports centres were opened to offer access to hot water and power, and the more than 100 military personnel helped knock doors in affected towns and villages.
Lessons to be learned from Storm Arwen as way forward mapped out
As the operation was wound down on December 8, attentions turned to assessing the long-lasting damage wrought by Arwen and looking at how future responses could be improved.
A detailed debrief with all involved in the effort will be led by Aberdeenshire Council early this month, before talks with communities and affected groups.
In February, work will begin on mapping out improvements in community resilience across the region.
Mr Johnson added: “The response in our communities was excellent and, in many cases, went above and beyond the call of duty.
“Likewise, Aberdeenshire Council staff worked long and hard to deliver a response in trying conditions with many staff – often volunteers – diverting from their normal duties to assist in the response.
“Individual and community resilience is a part of the plans we have in place and add to our response.”