Magpie sparks power cut chaos

By Kathryn King

A lone magpie was the cause of a power outage affecting 6000 properties yesterday.

The incident occurred on the No2 Line property of Denise Duncan, who said the bird had been sitting on a guidewire when it somehow touched two wires at the same time.

That caused the electricity to arc, electrocuting the bird and causing an insulator on the guidewire to blow apart.

There would have been a big bang but, because the bird had been perched on a high-voltage line running across their farmland, the only ones to hear it were a mob of cattle, which took off at a run, she said.

The insulator fell to the ground, where it set fire to a wooden-staked fence and surrounding grass covering an area of about 18sq m.

Mrs Duncan said they saw the cattle running, and then noticed the smoke and went to investigate.

They realised as they neared the fire that it was connected with the powerlines and a wire was hanging loose, so they turned back and called the fire service.

Thankfully, the ground was not too dry, because the area was difficult to get to and required firefighters to approach from a property on Durie Vale Rd. From there, fire officers had to walk about 450m to the site of the fire, she said.

Customers in Wanganui, Kaitoke, Kakatahi, Kaurangaroa, Mangamahu, Whangaehu Beach, Whangaehu Valley and Wanganui Matarawa were reportedly affected by the outage.

Power was restored to most areas by 2pm.

Powerco network operations manager Phil Marsh said such bird strikes were not uncommon and happened on average about once a month across their entire network.

Such outages occurred when birds either touched two wires at the same time, or one wire and an electrical "ground" - like the pole- at the same time. This caused the electricity to run through the bird, and caused faults on the network. The Wanganui Chronicle building was among those affected.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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