Heavy rain causes power cut

Some Marlborough residents lost power to their homes yesterday after heavy rain caused a sagging power line to spark in Picton, while a tractor is believed to have struck a power pole in Tua- marina.

Members of the Picton Volunteer Fire Brigade were called to a home at Devon St in Picton after neighbours reported seeing sparks from a sagging power line about 8am yesterday.

Marlborough Lines operations manager Brian Tapp said one customer lost power after heavy rain caused a power cable that connected a house to the main supply via a power pole to sag, bend and spark.

Several residents reported the cable, which Marlborough Lines staff replaced that day, and no one was hurt.

"When the cables get quite old, the insulation gets cracks.

"And when it drizzles or rains, you have a number of calls because the rain gets in to the cable and causes the phase and the neutral wires to come together," Mr Tapp said.

"It was a simple fix.

"The problems with ageing cables can be quite common - we get one or two calls a week," he said

"It tends to happen at houses over 30 years old and, unfortunately, what happens in Marlborough is the high UV (ultra-violet light from the sun) levels causes the wires' plastic coverings to crack.

"In this case, the residents have seen the cable hanging down and called the Fire Service thinking there's going to be something major but there was no real danger, it's just a matter of changing the wire."

Chief fire officer Wayne Wytenburg said although firefighters attended the incident, their role was minimal.

Marlborough was hit with a freak spell of heavy rain yesterday which saw up to 12.8 millimetres fall in two hours, according to the MetService.

The rain followed about 10 days of sunshine.

New Zealand's weather forecasters also issued severe weather warnings for Wellington and Nelson and a coastal storm warning over Cook Strait.

Marlborough Lines staff also replaced a faulty power pole in the Kaituna-Tuamarina area yesterday morning.

Residents in the area lost power for about three hours when the pole was damaged after reportedly being knocked by a tractor, causing a break in the 11,000-vault supply.

The Marlborough Express