‘Mentally and physically draining’: Northampton blackouts cause mayhem over Christmas long weekend
Frequent and prolonged power outages left Northampton residents feeling frustrated and vulnerable as they battled through extreme heat over the Christmas holidays.
More than 1400 Northampton households and businesses were left without power for more than 40 hours when the lights went out about 10.30pm on Boxing Day.
Residents had to throw out hundreds of dollars worth of food, while businesses were out of pocket thousands of dollars as they were forced to close during the busy tourist season.
Northampton Shire president Liz Sudlow said power lines had failed four times since December 4, with elderly residents dangerously exposed to searing temperatures well above 40C.
“The town of Northampton is home to a large number of retired and elderly residents who do not always have access to generators or the capacity to continually refuel them,” she said.
“Residents at the Pioneer aged care facility don’t have a generator and have been left feeling very vulnerable.
I’ve been hearing stories of elderly residents of our community literally draped in wet sheets trying to keep cool during blackouts.
Western Power said consistently high temperatures delayed crews from repairing the Northampton line on Boxing Day.
“Due to fire weather conditions we did not re-energise the line until we confirmed there was no apparent fault that could cause a bushfire,” a Western Power spokesperson said.
Northampton was left in the dark again just a couple of days later when another power failure hit at 1pm on December 30, caused by an “insulator fault”.
Power was restored 11 hours later to more than 1300 homes and businesses.
Chef Tara Smith said the power outages seemed to becoming more frequent each year.
“I’ve missed out on four shifts now because of the power outages,” she said.
“Because the power is out you can’t even get fuel from the fuel station because they have no backup generator.
“You’ve got to drive all the way to Geraldton to get fuel. It puts a lot of stress on a small community.”
While Northampton struggled through the blackout, Kalbarri experienced only a short breakdown thanks to a backup micro-grid system installed by Western Power in October.
Northampton resident Britt Lock said she would like to see a similar setup in her town.
“I don’t blame Western Power, it’s the State Government that needs to step up to the plate I think,” she said.
“It’s very disheartening to see it happen on a regular basis. It’s just not good enough.
“It’s mentally and physically draining on a lot of people.”
Western Power said it was investigating ways to reduce the frequency and duration of blackouts in Northampton, aiming to update residents this week.
About 34,000 households and businesses across WA went without power on Boxing Day, prompting the State Government to increase extended outage payments from $80 to $160 for those affected over the Christmas long weekend.
Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the Government would hold an independent review of the breakdowns in coming months.
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