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Lightning hits motel

Thursday, 16th January, 2020

A lightning bolt, not the one that hit the motel, drops from the sky over Wilcannia yesterday.  PICTURE:  Joyanne Cattermole A lightning bolt, not the one that hit the motel, drops from the sky over Wilcannia yesterday. PICTURE: Joyanne Cattermole

By Michael Murphy

A terrific thunderstorm in Wilcannia yesterday dropped some welcome rain on the river township, but a lightning bolt caused grief for Graham’s Motel.

Owner of the popular Wilcannia Roadhouse and motel, Patrick Cunningham, and his partner Belinda Gelmi, woke when the storm hit about 6am.

“The lightning storm was just amazing,” Patrick said. “It woke the whole town ... you would have had to have been dead (if you didn’t hear it).

“Then we heard this thing hit,” he said. “It was like we were right underneath it.”

The strike hit a TV antenna on the motel, and then travelled down into the electrical wiring.

Two 24-hour timers for the motel’s security lights, hard wired into a desk in reception, then burst into flames about half a metre high.

Patrick rushed down to the shed to grab a powder extinguisher, but by the time he got back, quick-thinking Belinda had tipped two kilograms of flour over it to douse it.

“Lucky we were home otherwise there would have been a lot of damage, it had taken hold pretty well,” Patrick said.

The lightning also damaged a few other appliances in the reception area.

Patrick continued to assess the damage yesterday, and was yet to scale the roof to see what happened up there, but he estimated the bill would be up to $3500.

As for the rain, he said Wilcannia got about 17mm in 40 minutes.

“It’s not a bad drop.”

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