British repair crews to help ESB restore power after Ophelia

Given the safety implications of fallen cables, progress on restoring power can be slow

 

Repair crews were expected to arrive from England, Scotland and Wales on Tuesday night to help ESB Networks to restore power to 137,000 customers throughout the State.

They will aid the full complement of ESB Networks’ 2,500 technicians, who were continuing to remove trees, put back power lines and repair broken infrastructure.

The crews restored power to 170,000 customers from Monday night to midday on Tuesday, with crews working through the tail end of Storm Ophelia.

At the height of the storm an unprecedented 385,000 customers were cut off in the State with a further 52,000 in Northern Ireland.

In many areas falling trees brought down telephone lines and households were left in the dark overnight with no access to landlines – and consequently in many cases they had no broadband communications.

For some the lack of power also meant they were unable to pump wells for drinking water or activate sewage treatment systems.

On Glenamuck Road in south Dublin, trees that fell during the storm brought down power lines and with them Eir phone lines. The road, a narrow, unimproved, once rural road from the M50, passes Carrickmines retail park and carries high volumes of traffic between the motorway and developing housing estates at Glenamuck, Kilternan and Enniskerry. It also links to high ground around Kilternan.

Storm troopers

ESB Networks arrived in the dark on Monday night as winds from the tail end of the storm were still blowing and rain was spitting.

A team of about five technicians set about removing the fallen trees while others dealt with traffic management. Given the level of ongoing development, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council plans to improve the road. But in the meantime, even in the quiet at the end of the storm, traffic was building up along the narrow route.

“People wonder why it takes so long, when it seems like a quick fix is all that is needed,” said ESB Networks technician Dermot Cunningham from Roundwood in Co Wicklow. Safety is a major issue, he said. Pointing to a fallen cable he explained that, although it was coated in plastic, “the ends are not” and one touch could be fatal.

In storms, fallen branches, trees and hedges are typically wet and even grabbing a branch near a cable could kill anyone who seeks to clear them away.

The first thing Mr Cunningham and his team did on Monday night was “secure the site”, which meant placing traffic cones and organising vehicle management while the tree removers went in. The wind was still blowing strongly and it was raining. In the dark the crews could not see clearly which trees remained upright and which were damaged and likely to fall, but they could hear wood cracking and used torches and arc lights in an attempt to ensure anything about to fall on them would be spotted.

By 10pm, with resurgent winds and the prospect of many more days to keep doing this kind of work, it was decided to call a halt for the night.

“I would have got home at 11pm and into bed and out again at 5am for a briefing at 6am in Leopardstown,” said Mr Cunningham.”Everybody else would be the same.

“We got about 25 houses connected at the bottom of the road before we left.”

At 6.45am on Tuesday, after the briefing in headquarters the crews were back on Glenamuck Road, connecting cables that had been pulled from poles by falling trees. The trees having been removed, the work progressed quickly and the teams were able to get on with the electrical work.

A long few days

By late morning it was a bright and sunny day and just pockets of houses without electricity remained.

However, in Kilternan, in the foothills of the Dublin mountains, there was a biting wind.

Mr Cunningham, Kevin Mullins from the Southern Cross in Bray, Co Wicklow, and a man in a cherry picker went to work on the last fallen cable, connecting just three houses.

Fortunately the cable was not severed but pulled from its connection on top of a pole. A blue tie rope was used to pull the cable up to the Cherry Picker and with a few “whooshes” it was carried over a phone line, and the cable was brought back to the pole. One of the team went back to the previous pole to test the cable for slack.

In 10 minutes the cable was reconnected. “That’s the easy bit,” said Mr Cunningham.

Somebody’s house alarm went off.

Mr Cunningham and his team moved on. It was going to be a long few days.