South Canterbury was battered by high winds on September 10, leaving residents without power for more than a week. Alpine Energy chief executive Andrew Tombs co-ordinated about 200 staff and contractors to get the region switched back on.
Reporter Al Williams caught up with him at the end of an exhausting seven days.
The force of the wind was absolutely incredible.
Up to 220 kilometres an hour (the equivalent of extreme hurricane force on the Beaufort wind scale) in some places, Andrew Tombs says.
Poles down and power out.
It was about midday on Tuesday, September 10, when the wind picked up.
He was in his office when the building started creaking.
"Next minute, stones were tossed into my office window; I thought the window was going to smash."
Reports of multiple outages came through the network within minutes.
"The computer screen lit up like a Christmas tree."
He declared an internal emergency within half an hour.
"All staff have to down tools or their usual tasks and take up emergency positions, answering calls or putting out emergency plans.
"We notified Netcon at the same time, with 110 staff from there," Mr Tombs said.
The first priority was to check main feeder lines.
Alpine Energy staff were then dispatched ahead of Netcon to assess the damage.
"That's where you create a map of where all the outages are and start thinking plans for restoration.
"And restoration at that stage means making anything safe they think is unsafe.
"That could be a line on the ground, a toppled pole or hanging fuses," he said.
By late that afternoon staff were literally on the ground.
"They work from the ground. We can't have them on ladders in high winds; there are devices they use in high winds, but in some cases it means turning the power off to sections of line that might actually be alright."
Meanwhile, an emergency control system was being formulated, a functioning radio telephone, a Geospatial Information System (GIS), and a camera linked to the control room where five staff were by now getting a handle on the tangle of controls and signals.
In a room nearby, Mr Tombs worked with a network manager and "clotter".
"The clotter will mark on a map where the outage is; that person will form a list of material required to repair the asset.
"That person also collates designs and plans for the issue of work to crews, including a list of materials and instructions."
And the planning sessions continued every night past 11pm.
More than 1000 households in South Canterbury lost power.
Mr Tombs says a review can consist of "life-like scenarios of emergency situations".
And there will be a review of this month's real-life scenario.
More than 100 poles were down.
"Then you have to fit it with a cross arm and dress it, and stand it up. It costs $3500 [for each pole]. That's just the poles and associated equipment; about $350,000 worth."
Then the conductor line; snapped and stretched in some places.
"That's another $150,000 in conductors," he says.
Mr Tombs believes power was finally restored to the whole of South Canterbury on Wednesday night with confirmation on Thursday.
Now he was asking the questions.
"What would cause a power pole to snap?
"These softwood poles are designed for at least 100 kilometre an hour wind speeds."
The winds were up to 220kmh on Clayton Rd near Fairlie, he reckons.
"If you are getting consistent wind speeds like that, then we might have to put higher-rated poles up there.
"Nine poles were replaced up there two years ago and no cause identified, except for a farmer who reported high winds."
The number of people affected fluctuated over the eight days as reported outages continued to flood in.
"From day one we make sure we have a good understanding of where the medical-dependent people are; we have lists from the electricity retailers. We also contact the district health board."
Workplace Support Services were called in on the second day.
"Their task is to monitor the wellbeing of all staff, including those in the field."
Crews from the West Coast, Waitaki, Otago and Christchurch needed accommodation.
"The same applies for materials; the procurement manager looks at all the items and the same principle applies, just order it in."
"We also get food and drink in for everybody, a roving team that takes it out in the field."
There will be lessons learnt, Mr Tombs says.
"Everything we do has to be safety first."
On Sunday, an electrical worker cheated death twice, surviving a 6600-volt shock and an eight-metre fall from a power pole east of the Clandeboye dairy factory, near Temuka.
Mr Tombs says the worker's family have asked him to say nothing to the media about the matter. "It was disappointing someone was hurt."
He says Wednesday this week saw his first decent night's sleep since the storm.
"Now that the dust has settled in terms of restoration, there are many weeks ahead of us for reconfiguring the network back to its normal operating configuration. We redirected power during the event to alternative routes; we now have to reverse all that we did."
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