With record winds of up to 207 km/h, hundreds of thousands of homes found themselves without electricity in Brittany after the passage of violent storm Ciaran on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, November 2. Enough to require emergency interventions to restore power. If today electricity has been restored, Enedis - the distribution network manager - has had to fight a long-term battle that Le Figaro reveals in detail, day by day.
Sunday October 29. It all starts with a first weather report received on Sunday October 29 in the morning by Hervé Champenois, technical director and member of the Enedis board of directors. He receives half a dozen bulletins of this type per year.
Monday 30. “On Monday morning, we began to refine the model,” remembers Hervé Champenois. As the day goes by, the forecasts become more refined and with them the confirmation that “this will be an important event”. “With November 1st, we cannot wait until the last moment to mobilize,” adds Hervé Champenois. The presence of this public holiday accentuates the need to anticipate. On October 30 at 4:50 p.m., a new weather forecast predicts that the storm will affect a large north-western quarter of France, with a more intense phenomenon over Brittany with winds exceeding 140 km/h. Potentially a phenomenon not seen for ten or twenty years.
“The difficulty is not to mobilize resources for nothing. With this new bulletin, we have the certainty that if we move teams, it will not be for nothing. And we have to organize everything before November 1,” continues Hervé Champenois. Reinforcements will come from the affected regions, but also - above all - from those which will not be affected.
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Tuesday 31. The weather forecasts are becoming more refined. “A more precise bulletin gives us the go to be prepositioned in cities like Le Mans. People from the East, a region that will not be affected, are making the trip. These are teams from Enedis and our service providers. We prepare everything, we warn, in a fairly broad way, even if it means reducing the sail in a second step,” relates Hervé Champenois. At 11:09 a.m., an update of the weather report specifies the geographical area potentially impacted: Normandy and Brittany, with an intensity that we have not seen for 20 years. Before noon, first conference call to organize everything and also to send off the equipment. Everything must be on site on Wednesday so that interventions can begin on Thursday morning.
Wednesday November 1st. The teams are on site. Some had a day's journey to arrive. They can take a few hours off to intervene on Thursday morning. A total of 3,000 people are mobilized, “which allows us to have a strike force from the first” day.
Thursday 2. “I asked to be called at 3:30 a.m. if more than 200,000 homes were without electricity. At 3:30 a.m., there were 600,000,” remembers Hervé Champenois. A balance sheet which will increase, with at the worst of the crisis, 1.2 million households without electricity, including 780,000 in Brittany, the others are located in Normandy and to a lesser extent in the Pays de la Loire. The race against time is on. People and materials must be located to be able to intervene. The Rapid Electricity Response Force (FIRE, created after the 1999 storm) was triggered, which formalized the handling of the emergency. The first interventions begin in the morning.
Saturday 4. It’s amazement. An Enedis employee was electrocuted while working on a medium voltage line in Pont-Aven (Finistère).
Sunday 5. At 6 p.m., electricity was restored to 90% of homes. There remain 114,000 homes to be replenished, including 97,000 in Brittany and 17,000 in Normandy.
Tuesday 7. At 9 a.m., 95% of affected households have access to electricity again. Enedis then specifies that “the force of the wind and the heavy precipitation caused major damage to the power lines and even destroyed equipment (downed wires, broken poles, crushed distribution stations, etc.). The heavy rains also soaked the ground, making access difficult for vehicles in the impacted areas.
Saturday 11. Enedis announces that it has restored “98.3% of affected households”. There remain 19,900 customers in Brittany and Normandy, still without power.
Thursday 16. A new milestone is reached with 99.9% of customers restored, only 1200 are still without electricity.
Friday December 1st. The work continues. To enable consumers to quickly regain electricity, Enedis initially favored “repowering by remote operation, network repair operations and, in certain areas, the temporary shutdown of generators”. Temporary repairs have also been carried out, these may involve lines pulled to the ground for example, which are then taken up again.
“This consolidation phase lasts two months. It will be followed by a reconstruction phase, and based on the analyses, we will propose investment avenues to the communities to which the networks belong,” explains Hervé Champenois. Enedis is a co-investor in the low voltage networks which are those which have suffered the most. Investment proposals will be made from January. “It’s an approach like this that has made the coastal area of Finistère more reliable,” concludes Hervé Champenois.