Ute escapes, timber hits tractor

Taieri farmer Philip Wilson narrowly missed having his ute crushed by a falling pine tree which downed power lines and cut power to neighbouring properties for 48 hours.

Contractors were yesterday working to restore power to his and neighbouring properties in Lee Canal Rd, after the pine tree tore through power lines when the storm front came through on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Wilson, who had been farming in the area since the 1970s and said he could not recall stronger winds, was out moving cows with his son when the front hit.

His ute had been parked below a pine tree moments before it came down.

''I heard a bit of a crack, like the sound of a tree coming over, and so I just bloody shot the ute out of here,'' he said.

''It would have come down on the ute if I hadn't driven down the road,'' he said yesterday while standing next to the fallen tree.

After escaping the path of the falling tree, he quickly turned his attention to his mob of about 50 cows, which his son was driving straight towards the fallen lines.

''He couldn't see the wires were down because of the rain in his eyes,'' Mr Wilson said.

Fortunately, a neighbour, Michaela Mullen, who was waiting in her car for the cows to pass, noticed the lines were down and signalled to his son.

''She got out of her car, in that horrible wind, got absolutely saturated to say to him: 'Don't go any further or you are going to drive your stock into the live wires'.''

That could well have saved the cows from being electrocuted.

After that, it was all about getting the cows safely into a paddock, which they eventually managed to do.

''It certainly got the ... adrenaline flying, because [with] cows, you don't know what they are going to do next in a situation like that.

''A stampede can be a frightening thing and you don't want to see that happen, because they hurt their udders.''

Not having power to his farm was an inconvenience, but a nearby farmer kindly lent him a generator so drinking water could be pumped to troughs for his cows.

It would likely take ''more than a month'' to clean up damage to farm buildings and fallen trees on his three farms, but he was just happy no animals or humans had been hurt.

''You can fix buildings. You can saw up trees for firewood.''

He thanked the Delta contractors for working so hard to get power back on.

''I don't know how you thank these fellas enough.

''They have been working late at night. They have been working in the [most terrible] weather possible.''

Neighbouring sharemilker Nathan Bayne said the power outage created an inconvenience, forcing him to delay milking by 12 hours.

He was just about to hook up a generator on Sunday, when the power came back on.

Jason Fraser, who lives on a lifestyle block in Momona, hopes his tractor can be salvaged after it was crushed by a macrocarpa, toppled in the wind on Saturday.

His wife, Candice Ross-Fraser, said it felt like being in a hurricane when the front came through on Saturday, and ''it was just terrifying''.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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