Mystery surge keeps residents guessing

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 29/06/2013
Rachel McKee
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
BLOWN UP: Rachel McKee, of Raumati South, lost thousands of dollars’ worth of appliances when a power surge hit her home after last week’s storms.

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A massive power surge blew out $20,000 worth of electrical appliances at Rachel McKee's home - and she's desperate to solve the mystery of who is responsible.

Trees were down and her street in Raumati South on the Kapiti Coast was under water after last week's storm when someone showed up with a generator on the back of a truck to help with the cleanup.

Soon afterwards, a huge power surge blew out her spa pool, heat pump, washing machine, garage door opener, hot water system, all the kitchen lights, wi-fi, stereo and portable phone - together worth about $20,000.

An electrician told the McKees a "voltage spike" had caused damage to the circuit boards of all their devices. A washing machine mechanic said he had never seen worse damage from a surge, and it must have been huge.

That was last Friday, and since then the couple and their neighbours around Rainbow Court have been trying to find out who caused all the damage.

At first, they thought lines company Electra might be to blame, but it insists it did not use any generators in the area.

However, chief executive John Yeoman said lines "arcing" together on the high-voltage line close to Rainbow Court could possibly have caused a surge.

Kapiti Coast District Council used generators in the area to keep storm and wastewater pumps going, after trees fell on powerlines nearby. However, it has denied its work could have caused a power surge.

"We have done this countless times without causing problems," council spokesman Roger Foley said yesterday.

"The generators were only linked to our pumps and could not have caused damage to electrical appliances."

McKee is not the only one looking for answers as to who or what caused the surge.

"My insurers are very interested to find out," she said.

The cul-de-sac flooded frequently, and was under water on the morning after the storm, she said. The power was on, albeit at reduced output.

"The lights were very dim, it takes half an hour to boil a jug, that sort of thing."

The generator that arrived early on Friday was seen by several people in the street. Glenda Robb, whose house also suffered damage in the surge, said: "It looked like a very big box on the back of the truck - it arrived about eight in the morning."

Shortly after it arrived, McKee said, her husband went to open the garage - and the door's electric motor blew up.

Robb said many of the residents would have to pay excesses on their insurance claims.

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"I have different things covered by my home and contents policies. I will probably have to pay two lots of excess."

Meanwhile, at least 200 people remain without power in the Wellington region after extensive damage to the city's electricity supply during the storm.

Lines company Wellington Electricity has called in crews from Tauranga, Hastings, Marlborough, Hamilton, Thames and Whangarei to help with repairs.

Many of the homes that have yet to be reconnected have suffered damage to their individual connection lines to the mains.

The company plans to have everyone reconnected by tomorrow, although that could depend on whether the residents are at home.

Spokesman Drew Douglas said customers needed to be at home to allow electrical safety tests if the internal wiring had been damaged, or if their mains switchboard was inside the house.

"We need customers in attendance during relivening to be able to turn off the main switch, as we do not know what appliances have been left on."

The Paekakariki Hill Road closed to through traffic again yesterday for several hours after a mud slip to the north of its summit. The road was reopened only on Thursday after being closed for a week.

- The Dominion Post

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