By JENNIFER HUXLEY
A VIOLENT electrical storm on Saturday night left Grafton and district without power and communications supplies for nearly five hours.
Strong winds, flying debris and lightning combined to bring down the 66-thousand volt system that supplies electricity to Grafton and surrounding areas.
Country Energy manager for field services Denis Lynch said the main cause of the widespread power outage was a series of lightning strikes throughout the electricity grid.
"There were strikes along the whole line, and a number of conductors came down in the span before Carrs Island," Mr Lynch said.
"Public safety is paramount. Before we could restore power we had to patrol the entire area to check all the lines that were down ? that meant covering everywhere from Koolkhan through to Grafton, South and outlying areas.
"The power went down a bit after 6pm and was gradually restored from 8.30pm onwards ... we had staff from Coffs and Maclean to help us. They were working through the night ? it was a big job."
Alongside Country Energy, the State Emergency Service (SES), Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW Police and Clarence Valley Council workers toiled to restore order to the storm-ravaged areas.
SES local controller Bill Manyweathers said there was extensive tree damage in the Clarence Valley.
The lengthy power outage took its toll on the supermarkets, with Woolworths and Coles reporting large amounts of spoiled meats and dairy products.
Grafton Woolworths store manager Wayne Avery said the supermarket had been hit hard by the extended blackout.
"Four hours is big for us, we had to throw out a lot of stock ? we're talking thousands of dollars worth," Mr Avery said.
With the blackout beginning at dinner time, hungry locals were drawn to the Crown Hotel and the Grafton District Services Club, believed to be the only two places in the city backed up by generators.
A Crown Hotel spokesman said the power outage boosted early Saturday night trade 'through the roof'.
"We were expecting a reasonably quite night and it ended up being one of our biggest," Mr Masters said.
Saturday's blackout follows power outages in Grafton's central business district and Gulmarrad on Friday.