Bad luck Cup Day 'Double'



GYMPIE and nearby districts have been hit by a Melbourne Cup "double" of bad luck, with power blackouts affecting thousands of consumers right on Cup time - for the second year in a row.

An Energex spokesperson said about 2500 of its customers, including Gympie Turf Club, lost power when lightning struck a power line in Sorensen Road, Southside, just before Cup starting time at 2pm yesterday.

Last year, it was a car accident which brought down the lines and blacked out a similar number of customers over a large part of Gympie and nearby areas, just seconds before the end of the race.

Intense storm cells drifted across the Gympie Region during yesterday afternoon, starting about 1.30pm and generating about 400 lightning strikes.

Moving in from the Mary Valley they passed over the city and to the east, crossing the coast between Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach.

Tin Can Bay weather watcher John Gordon said it was "just a lot of noise" at his place, with strong wind and not much else, while at Rainbow Beach, Alain Henderson reported a rare fall of hail and heavy rain.

"We had a bit of light hail and 13mm of rain in half an hour," he said. "I've seen hail at Double Island Point and at Tin Can Bay, but I've only seen hail at my home twice the 25 years I've been here."

Energex reported power outages in Gympie, Monkland, Jones Hill, McIntosh Creek and Southside, making it the second year in a row for Monkland residents.

Last year's blackouts hit just as Cup winner, Efficient, was about 23 seconds from the winning post, blacking out northern and eastern districts mainly, but also affecting Monkland.

In that case, automatic shutdown mechanisms fell like dominos when, about 2.03pm, a car crashed into a power pole stay wire, shaking the pole and causing power lines to brush against each other.

That sent a surge of 11,000 volts through the system, activating circuit breakers and blacking out areas from Anderleigh to Goomboorian and Neerdie and from Wolvi to Victory Heights and Monkland.

In both cases, quick work by Energex repair crews had the power back on promptly.

Yesterday, 95 per cent of customers had their power restored by about 3pm, with only about 200 "right next to the strike" still affected for a couple of hours after that.