Essential Energy crews were kept busy as a severe storm cell swept across the north of the state on Wednesday afternoon and evening, bringing strong winds, lightning and hail.
Barraba experienced a 27-hour power outage after the wild storms. Electricity supply was lost to almost 1500 customers at 3.05pm on Wednesday24 February.
Operations Manager Northern Tablelands for Essential Energy, Mark Summers, said, “Crews worked late into the evening to locate and repair the damage, including replacing a broken high voltage crossarm, however customers remained without power overnight as the heavy rain made access to work sites extremely difficult.”
“Additional crews were deployed to the area from surrounding depots to help with repairs and restoration efforts. Our crews returned on Thursday morning and a helicopter was brought in to patrol the electricity network to locate further damage,” Mark said.
The patrol located a power pole which had been brought down by strong winds during the storm and another power pole which had been hit by lightning in Manilla.
“Crews worked as quickly as safety and the conditions allowed to replace the power poles before restoring power to most customers between 5.35pm and 5.54pm on Thursday,” Mark said.
Essential Energy crews were still attending individual faults on Friday. “We apologise for any inconvenience and thank customers for their patience and understanding as we worked to complete repairs and restore power to customers,” Mark said.
Most businesses in Barraba were forced to close on Thursday, losing a day’s trade and in some cases stock and equipment as well. Sandra Allen’s Queen street business “Polkadot” suffered significant losses. At Polkadot, a boutique and café, a large commercial refrigerator was a casualty as well as the trading day. “Lots of businesses have taken a big hit with this power outage and all sorts of people have lost expensive equipment. Our refrigeration technician said many people have lost fridges, freezers and pumps in this outage,” says Sandra.
The outage also meant the Barraba Show Campdraft had to be cancelled by organisers.
Sandra says, “The electricity company’s workers have done a fantastic job in terrible conditions to restore power. But I wonder is the electricity company doing enough to support their workers and the smaller communities. They need to keep the infrastructure up to date like in the cities.”
Sandra believes the frequency and severity of the power outages is a real problem for Barraba. “Why should we have to live like a third world country because they don’t keep the staff on? We have all noticed the staffing cutbacks. Essential Energy needs to provide a reliable service. I think it’s time we get Kevin Anderson up here to get something done and get us a fair go!”
Kylie Kallitsis, another business owner in Queen Street, also thinks help from Barraba’s Federal representative, Barnaby Joyce might be needed to secure our phone services in power outages. Barraba lost Telstra’s mobile phone service from midnight on Wednesday, with most Telstra customers having no signal until power was restored around 6pm on Thursday. “Our mobile tower only works for a limited time in an outage. These long outages are leaving lots of community members with no phone service at all,” says Kylie.
“It’s hard to believe that Telstra cannot make arrangements with generators and batteries to keep the Barraba mobile tower operational in a power outage. But once again, the mobile service cut out after the first eight hours.”