28 November 2022

UPDATED: 240 properties still without power after Sunday South Canberra hailstorm

| Lottie Twyford
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hailstorm aftermath

At the height of the power outages yesterday, almost 4000 homes were left without power. Photo: James Coleman.

UPDATED 5 pm: Almost 240 residences are still without power this afternoon (28 November) after yesterday’s fast-moving hailstorm left parts of the electricity network severely damaged.

At the height of the storm yesterday, 3858 properties across South Canberra were left without power.

As of 4 pm, that has been reduced to 236 customers – including 14 registered with life support equipment at their property – and Evoenergy has warned while work is continuing to restore power, it’s expected many will remain without it until late tomorrow.

Evoenergy Acting Group Manager Customer Delivery Bronwen Butterfield has advised the damage to the electricity network is localised but complex.

“It’s not unusual at this time of year for us to have storms impact our network but we are seeing more situations like on Sunday night, with shorter and more intense storms that leave behind significant and complex damage to our network,” Ms Butterfield said.

“A common factor between these storms is that much of the damage is a result of trees falling on powerlines—some of them uprooted from the ground.

“We had crews out last night and into the early hours of the morning working to make safe and restore power. Our priority at daylight this morning was to continue to make safe and continue to assess all reports of network damage.”

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Around 70 individual jobs are being worked through by Evoenergy crews, which are being rotated to avoid fatigue.

225 customers have been texted to be told they need to plan to be without power this evening and tomorrow.

They are encouraged to stay elsewhere if they can.

hail storm in Rivett

A hailstorm blasted through parts of Tuggeranong and Weston Creek last night. Photo: James Coleman.

10 am: Emergency services received more than 100 calls for help after a hailstorm blasted through parts of Tuggeranong and Weston Creek yesterday (27 November).

The fast-moving storm cell hit around 7:30 pm, uprooting established gum trees and sending garden sheds flying.

Some homes sustained damage, while power lines and trees fell in the Weston Creek area.

ACT Emergency Services Agency had 103 requests for assistance, with 42 still outstanding as of this morning (28 November).

The storm also led to some power outages in the areas of Woden, Weston Creek and the Tuggeranong Valley, Evoenergy confirmed.

Some are yet to have power restored in parts of Fadden, Wanniassa and Rivett.

Around 432 customers are still experiencing power outages this morning.

People are advised to stay clear of fallen powerlines at all times and if they spot one, to report it on 13 10 93.

During a power outage, Evoenergy recommends minimising how often fridge and freezer doors have to be opened.

ACT State Emergency Services (SES) volunteers have been training for the past six months ahead of what’s expected to be a rise in severe weather events across the Territory.

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Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Helen Kirkup said yesterday’s very localised storm wasn’t that unusual.

“Storms are always reasonably isolated and in particular, when you get severe storms, it’s often the case you get one in an area and an area of clearer weather next to it,” she said.

“This particular one came from the northwest and intensified across the ranges – came across the ACT – and it weakened quite a bit as it travelled.”

Reports to the Bureau of storm activity began before 7 pm but these were over “reasonably quickly”.

Ms Kirkup said previous storms in recent times have felt different (and carried more rain with them) because there was so much less wind associated with them.

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Storms were also triggered right across NSW due to a surface trough moving through and associated upper air instability.

Chief Officer Anthony Draheim said last month that a third consecutive La Niña meant more above-average rainfall was on the way.

“For a lot of us, it looks like we’ve been in a storm season for the last 18 months or two years, and that’s the way it feels,” he said.

“[The Bureau of Meteorology has told us] to expect larger, higher, above average rainfall for this next three months.”

Two weeks ago, a form of hail called “groupel” which many believed to be snow or sleet fell in parts of Canberra.

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HiddenDragon7:20 pm 28 Nov 22

“A common factor between these storms is that much of the damage is a result of trees falling on powerlines—some of them uprooted from the ground.”

With episodes like this apparently now more likely than in earlier times –

https://the-riotact.com/state-of-the-climate-dangerous-weather-events-becoming-less-rare-for-canberra-and-southern-nsw/615956

it would be timely to have a serious look at current rules regarding clearance distances between trees and powerlines, which tend to operate on a one size fits all approach with standardized clearances regardless of whether it’s a large overhanging tree or a small tree which is barely much more than a shrub.

If the official view is that this could not possibly change because protecting trees at all costs is more important than avoiding widespread and protracted power outages, the ACT government should provide Evoenergy with worthwhile funding to bolster its capacity to respond to these disasters more quickly than at present.

For people who face protracted/overnight power outages, there should be a clear entitlement for reimbursement of alternate accommodation costs, which could be based on public service travel entitlement rates – this sort of “you’re on your own” cop out is simply not good enough –

“225 customers have been texted to be told they need to plan to be without power this evening and tomorrow.

They are encouraged to stay elsewhere if they can.”

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