As lightning struck and blackouts descended on 1,100 Tumut households last Saturday night, one bride’s big day was brought out of darkness by dedicated SES members.
Courtney and Timothy Smith were midway through their wedding reception when disaster struck and the lights went out, but thanks to the SES, Tumut RSL and the determination of guests to enjoy themselves the night was not ruined.
Power for much of northern half of Tumut, including the CBD, went out about 6.45pm and would not return for more than five hours.
“We knew it was going to be wet, but the black out was obviously not planned,” said newlywed Courtney Smith.
“Everyone says it’s good luck for it to rain on your wedding day, so I guess we have all the luck in the world now.”
While Courtney may be in good spirits about the eventful evening now, at the time she feared her dream night was wrecked.
“At first when the light flickered we really weren’t concerned and when it went out we thought it would be right back. We probably waited for 30 minutes, just sitting and waiting,” Courtney said.
“It hit me it wasn’t coming on when the manager came to see us and said the whole street was out, I disappeared and had a bit of a cry. I tried to pull it together but an hour later I realised we couldn’t do our first dance and it just hit me, it was devastating.”
Luckily for Timothy and Courtney two of their guests were local SES members who know just how to save a dire situation.
Courtney’s cousin David Bridle and guest Scott Fisher quickly worked to remedy the situation.
“As soon as they realised the power was off for good, they told us not to worry and came back with a generator and floodlights. They hooked up the kitchen and then told me they were going to get the jukebox going for our first dance,” Courtney said.
“I was overwhelmed and overjoyed, it was so exciting. We’d practised and when it was time I was giddy like a child.”
For Courtney, knowing her guests, the SES and the RSL all rallied to make her day special made it only more memorable.
“It was humbling, every bride wants the perfect day and at first I thought mine was never going to be perfect. No one asked the SES to fix anything. David and Scott just did it and sorted everything out for us,” Courtney said.
“I really couldn’t thank everyone enough. We felt very loved, the room was filled with warm feelings.”
For the guests the night is sure to stand out from other weddings.
SES’s Scott Fisher said while it was an unusual situation, it was the only call out SES received during the blackout.
“We supplied generators for the wedding. There were about 100 guests so we gave power to the kitchen, provided some lighting and powered the jukebox so the bride could have her first dance,” Mr Fisher said.
“I was actually a guest there and because it was a fairly localised blackout we didn’t have anyone else in need.”
RSL club manager Colin Woodman said it was a unique situation but the wedding was able to proceed as close to usual as possible.
“Within 10 minutes we had emergency lighting and a generator so the night carried on as normal as it could,” Mr Woodman said.
“Meals were served within 10 minutes of the original schedule. It was a wedding to remember for us all.”
Courtney said the RSL was amazing under pressure.
“The kitchen staff were amazing, the food was barely late, it was hot and every single person was quiet so you know it was good,” Courtney said.
“The staff kept a calm head and were great to us.”
Now a happily married woman Courtney said the fact everyone worked so hard to ensure her day was not destroyed, made the day especially love filled.
However with the power outage lasting from 6.45pm to 12pm, not everyone in the CBD were so lucky.
A suspected lightning strike caused a fault on the local high voltage electricity network. The unplanned power supply interruption affected customers in the vicinity of Fitzroy, Capper, Lambie, Merivale and Wynyard streets from about 6.45pm.
Crews from Tumut Depot responded, patrolling powerlines and identifying damage to a piece of electricity network equipment. Crews re-configured the network to re-direct the power supply and restore power to most customers by about 10pm. After ensuring the power supply to the fault location was isolated and the area was safe, crews proceeded to make repairs. Power was restored to the remaining customers shortly after midnight.”
While the wedding continued in the RSL’s function room, a night’s trading was lost as the power shut off lights, ATMs and machines.
“The gaming machines were out, we had no heating and it was a very cold night. The whole CBD was affected, so a lot of people would have lost out,” Colin Woodman said.
Ellen Webb of the Oriental Hotel said the outages seem to be increasingly common over the past few years.
“It’s the third time I’ve been cooking in the dark in three years,” Ellen said.
“It’s really annoying, but I suppose you just have to get through.”
Luckily the Oriental is predominately gas powered, but the lack of light, power and refrigeration did limit the hotel’s serving time and profitability.
“We still traded, we had safety lighting going and all our appliances are gas, but the till wasn’t working, coffee machines not on, and refrigeration not possible,” Ellen said.
“We fed about 30 people, but we did stop cooking early because I was worried about the refrigeration.”
SES’s Scott Fisher said motorists were fantastic over the weekend, especially considering the amount of people attending the snow.
“I’d really love to praise everyone for their driving this weekend and ask them to continue to drive carefully. There’s still snow expected so people need to check the conditions before they drive anywhere and if they are skiing or hiking any backcountry they really need to register their intended route and bring a PLB so we can locate them.”