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Storms cause havoc across shire

Storm

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Feb 21, 2024

PETER Weeks, Alexandra SES Controller, was asked how busy the SES had been during last week and he responded with a laugh, “Very.” Two storm fronts came through on Tuesday afternoon. The first built up very quickly, across about an hour, so there was little warning. A lot of lightning was associated with the front, particularly around Wandong and Yea, and certainly a lot of wind. The top speed measured by the Eildon fire tower was 119k/h and at Mt Wombat, it was 120k/h. Most towns in the shire lost power due to trees falling on powerlines. There were issues right across the Victorian electricity grid, largely due to the failure of six transmission towers.
One house on Whanregarwen Road lost its roof during the storms, landing in a paddock beside the house. Another house in Gobur lost about 50 tiles off the roof.

There were also about 100 trees down on roads and driveways just at Terip Terip, on Yarck Road and Gobur-Kanumbra Road, through to Top Road. Creightons Creek Road was closed due to the number of trees down.
Marysville SES were kept busy with tree clearing, and VicRoads contractors cleared trees at Buxton, Narbethong, Taggerty, Acheron, and between Molesworth and Yea on the Melba Highway.

The Alexandra SES cleared trees predominantly around Alexandra and up on the Yarck Road. The Alexandra and Yarck CFAs assisted the SES with jobs locally.
The Alexandra SES also assisted council with power for their radio communications.

Peter estimated that by Thursday afternoon, they had done about 25 jobs locally due to the storms, but jobs were still coming in.
They had contingencies in place with the council to provide relief centres if needed. They spoke with the council and they provided WiFi and internet at the Alexandra, Yea and Kinglake offices, and also people were able to charge their phones at those locations.

The CFA also provided phone charging at Alexandra, Yea, Marysville and Eildon.
Fortunately, there were no injuries or vehicle accidents during the storms of their aftermath. They were called to a steep angle rescue in Gooram, but it turned out that the vehicle had been there for a few days.

There were also many trees down around the Limestone area, and Peter commented, “Council assisted us greatly with all of the council roads.”
Powerlines came down on Halls Flat Road, which kept the power off at Alexandra Secondary School for an additional day, along with homes in that area.
For most people in Alexandra, the power came back on at about 12.45am on Thursday morning. For most people in Yea, the power resumed at 7pm on Wednesday, but some parts of Yea remained without power for longer.

Speaking on Thursday, Peter said, “There are a lot of places around the district that still don’t have power.”

One of the challenges was that it was hard to get through to the power company to report issues.

Peter said, “The biggest issue was that the mobile phone towers and the NBN all lost power because the batteries went flat. We had radio communications set up between the hospital, the SES, the radio station and the CFA. It was something that we put together after the 2009 bushfires. Our landlines continued to work, the old copper landlines, enabling us to continue to provide internet. We were also using satellite for WiFi.

“We also lost our local CFA, police, SES and ambulance base station. We were relying on more distant base stations to provide coverage, but we’ve got our own radio system locally that we used, so that got us out of trouble.

“We were also monitoring the UHF CB radio. We put that in place locally on Wednesday when the phones all went down. We monitored that overnight, in case people had a Triple Zero emergency where they couldn’t use their phone, so we had radio communications with the emergency services in Melbourne so we could provide support for anyone who was in trouble,” Peter said.

“We could see it all happening slowly and it all fell over. It didn’t surprise me in the slightest that it happened, so we were fairly well prepared for it. When it happens, it throws everyone into panic because all of a sudden, their phones don’t work. You know what people are like with their phones these days. It’s like their umbilical cord.”
The Alexandra SES also supplied the Alexandra Hospital with a satellite phone for emergency communications, and Yea Hospital received a satellite phone from the SES region.
SP Ausnet had 204,000 customers off at the peak across their area, and on Wednesday morning, it was still… continue reading the full story by subscribing to our weekly editions here.

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