Hunter April storm 2015: Battle to restore light

PLANNING: Some of the Ausgrid crew who formed a plan to attack the widespread power outage caused by the super storm.
PLANNING: Some of the Ausgrid crew who formed a plan to attack the widespread power outage caused by the super storm.

Half of Ausgrid’s customers north of Sydney were without power after the April super storm unleashed its wrath on the Hunter and Central Coast.

With almost 370,000 customers left in the dark, it was a mammoth task to restore the service amid relentless rain, strong winds, debris and flooding. 

Hunter and Central Coast regional manager Craig Hersant was at the helm with a team of up to 180 people who organised crews on the ground.

They brought in resources from interstate to help, and at one point more than 1600 emergency workers, line workers, pole crews and tree trimmers were working together to bring back the light.

“We used different paths to get the power to people than what we normally would,” Mr Hersant said. “It placed additional loads on parts of the network but we had to do that because we couldn’t fix the power the normal way.

“After we put everybody back on we had an enormous amount of work to do to get our system back to normal.”

Power came and went across the region like a Mexican wave until the storm left the area and it took between 36 and 48 hours before the extent of the damage was realised. Crews restored power to more than 110,000 premises within the first two days, and on April 28 there were only 8000 Hunter customers without power. By April 30 there were only 300 sites left to restore. 

Crews worked with the SES to access Gillieston Heights when the roads around Maitland were flooded so they could restore power in part of the suburb. But there were some areas they could not access until conditions improved.

“We thought people could go without power for another day or two rather than risk our people’s lives,” he said.

Mr Hersant said the 135 kilometre winds made many power poles and power lines fall down, but falling trees and debris flying through the air were also huge factors.

“We had hospitals, shopping centres, petrol stations without power - those sort of infrastructure services that people really need to access in their daily lives," he said. “We did try and get them back on as quickly as possible. “The team worked very long hours, they are a very dedicated team who were focused on getting the power back on for our customers.” 

This story Bringing back the light first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.

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