Holyrood Notes - Adversity bringing out the best as county devastated by Storm Babet

My thoughts are not only with the families of those who lost their lives to the extreme conditions caused by Storm Babet but everyone displaced or affected by the storm, whose homes and day-to-day existence have been severely impacted and continue to be so, writes Graeme Dey MSP.
​The scale of the damage left in Storm Babet’s wake is now being assessed across Angus. (Wallace Ferrier)​The scale of the damage left in Storm Babet’s wake is now being assessed across Angus. (Wallace Ferrier)
​The scale of the damage left in Storm Babet’s wake is now being assessed across Angus. (Wallace Ferrier)

The ferocity of the storm was seen across the country and in the North Sea those working on a drilling platform had to be airlifted to safety after several of its anchors came loose during the storm.

But we bore the heaviest of the brunt here in Angus.

In Brechin, the 1.5km of flood embankments and walls – completed in 2015 at a cost of £16m – were breached by the rising South Esk River. Designed to provide protection up to a ‘1 in 200 year’ level event, the defences were swept away as the river rose an unprecedented five metres above normal levels. And that really is a Climate Change wake-up call to the reality that we are living in a deteriorating situation where nature is going to throw more and worse at us and the best mitigations may not cope.

In Monifieth, people were evacuated from their homes by boat teams after the Dighty Burn burst its banks and engulfed several houses. Schools were closed, roads were flooded and rail tracks were blocked by fallen trees. It was a worrying reminder of the power of nature and the consequences of Climate Change.

Not everyone was able to shelter from the weather. While most were able to heed warning to remain at home and stay safe, our frontline workers stepped up once again. Health and social care staff, including community meals, carers, community nursing staff and Voluntary Action Angus volunteers and staff continued to provide care and support to those who need it most, in circumstances beyond belief and comprehension.

Council staff put resilience planning into operation in a commendable way. And emergency services personnel worked tirelessly to keep us safe. They faced high winds, torrential rain, and treacherous conditions to rescue those in need, and for that, we owe them our utmost respect and gratitude.

Seeing the spirit of innovation and adaptability shine through our communities was also heartening. Neighbours shared resources, organised impromptu support networks and checked on the vulnerable among us.

When Angus Health and Social Care Partnership made a call for people to donate clothing for those at rest centres wet and with nothing else to wear, they were overwhelmed by the generosity of response and when an urgent appeal for accommodation was issued, Angus Council were inundated with hundreds of offers. While the storm brought devastation, it also brought out the best in us.

The process of assessing the scale of damage in all areas affected is now underway. This will take some time and the government will work closely with local authorities to support the people and businesses affected. For now, that must be the focus. Beyond that there has to be a recognition of the need to change societal behaviours, otherwise storms such as Babet will become an increasing reality.