South Australia Recovers From Worst Storm In 50 Years
South Australia is coming back to life after severe weather damaged energy infrastructure, shutting down the entire electricity network and plunging the state into darkness.
(And the photos prove it; check out how the state is waking up this morning in the gallery above!)
High winds are being blamed for bringing down at least 22 transmission towers in the mid-north on Wednesday with about 80,000 lightning strikes hitting the state, some damaging generation facilities.
That caused automatic emergency systems to cut power across SA to prevent damage with SA Power Networks reporting 200,000 customers were left without electricity.
But by late on Wednesday, power had been restored to much of the Adelaide metropolitan area and only the northern parts of the state and the Eyre Peninsula were expected to be without services into Thursday.
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"We will progressively restore regional areas as more generation and transmission supply becomes available," SA Power Networks spokesman Paul Roberts said.
"Once the metro area is supplied this will provide sufficient network stability for us to start the process of restoring supply to country areas."
Hospitals and other emergency services across the state continued to operate using back-up generators with most able to maintain services for at least 72 hours.
Premier Jay Weatherill said the system worked as it was designed to and rejected suggestions the blackout was an embarrassment or the result of SA's high use of wind power or the decision to shutdown coal-fired power stations in the mid north.
Mr Weatherill said energy officials had indicated the severe weather was so destructive, no network in the world would have emerged unscathed.
"We had winds which were so strong that when they hit power lines they were creating such energy that they were tearing their towers out of the ground," the premier said.
The statewide blackout prompted police to urge people to stay off the roads with officers dispatched to direct gridlocked traffic at major intersections during Adelaide's afternoon peak hour.
There were reports of a number of accidents, all suburban trains were cancelled while a number of flights in and out of Adelaide were cancelled.
Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said it was fortunate there were no reports of any deaths or injuries as a result of the blackout or the severe weather, although 19 people had to be rescued from lifts when the power failed.
The blackout came as strong winds and heavy rain lashed parts of SA with the Bureau of Meteorology maintaining a severe weather warning for large parts of the state and a flood warning for the Adelaide Hill heading into Thursday.
It said the storms still to come could produce wind gusts up to 140km/h, especially along the west coast of Eyre Peninsula and up to 100mm of rain across the Adelaide Hills, bring the risk of flooding.
A flood warning was also issued for Port Pirie, north of Adelaide, because of a storm surge and high waves.
The State Emergency Service responded to more than 450 calls for help on Wednesday and chief officer Chris Beattie said the wild weather would continue for at least another day.
"There's still the potential for significant severe weather damage," he said.
The Bureau of Meteorology said the damaging weather was the result of an intense low pressure system moving over SA.
It said records suggested such a severe system was last reported across the state more than 50 years ago.