|A long-lived storm system sweeps across the southeast. This animation of hourly captures from 5am to midnight shows the progress of the storm from central VIC until it clears the NSW coast. Weatherzone, BoM, Kattron.
NSW, SA, VIC, ACT: Severe storms lash SE AUS
A broad area of thunderstorms, some severe, brought damaging wind gusts and hail along with torrential rain from Adelaide to the east coast today. The surface charts above show that a deep trough crossed SE AUS, with an embedded surface low that tracked eastwards from Adelaide to Sydney. The storms developed in the moist northerlies ahead of the trough, while a sharp trough in the upper atmosphere extended to the tropopause at about 12km. The upper trough added strong wind sheer and high vorticity in the middle atmosphere to the moist surface low infeed, setting up ideal conditions for long-living thunderstorms with embedded severe cells.
Severe storm cells produced large hail and wind gusts over 100km/h in many places, with northeastern VIC, the Riverina and northwestern NSW worst affected. Narrabri Airport recorded a wind gust of 156km/h.
In South Australia, lightning and thunder kept Adelaide residents awake between midnight and 4am with the Bureau's Kent Town gauge recording 26.6mm, 3.2mm more than the city's average rainfall for the month of January. Edinburgh RAAF Base recorded 20.8mm in the hour to 1.30am while the Kent Town gauge recorded 15.2 in the hour to 2.30am. The heaviest 24 hour totals were in the Hills, where Happy Valley Reservoir recorded 33.6mm and Brownhill Creek flood gauge at Hawthorn 33mm. An unofficial gauge at Woodside recorded 60mm. ABC News reported that hail from golf ball to apple size had fallen, but the SES only reported about 40 callouts to deal with water damage from blocked gutters. Away from the Adelaide area there were storms but little rain.
In Victoria, storms picked up in intensity as they moved across the Central North and North East, with most of the damage occurring between midnight and dawn.
- Hail larger than a 10c coin was reported at Cobram, severely damaging orchards to the east and west of the town, with damage less severe to the south of the Murray Valley Highway.
- At Congupna, 50km WNW of Benalla, wind tore trees from the ground blocking roads, destroying fences, pulling down power lines and pushing a tree through the roof of a house. From the damage, the Bureau estimated winds to have been around 120km/h.
- About 4000 homes in Stanhope, Numurkah and Kyabram were left without electricity for up to six hours.
- Lightning started a fire at Kialla West and melted the powerboard at a house in Shepparton.
- Rainfall in the west and south of the state with the storms was insignificant, but more substantial in the North East where high totals for the 48 hours to 9am Friday included Eurobin 67.4, Walwa 65.2 and Dartmouth Reservoir 51.4.
In the ACT, the SES responded to 35 calls across Canberra for damaged roofs, flooded backyards, fallen trees and debris clearance. Hail 2 to 3cm in diameter was reported to the Bureau from Dickson and Kambah.
The worst storm damage occurred in NSW, where high winds, large hail, torrential rain and flash flooding were reported across the southern half of the state, the central and north west, Central Tablelands and around Sydney. The highest recorded wind gusts were 156km/h at Narrabri at 5.35pm, 124 at Yanco at 1.01pm and 119 at Kurnell at 6.09pm. Other strong gusts are below. Hundreds of homes and some larger public buildings were damaged or lost part or all of their roofs, with scores left uninhabitable. Hail caused major damage for farmers. Road, rail and air transport was disrupted, and about 40,000 properties around the state lost power when powerlines came down or main feeder systems were damaged by lightning. Short, high-intensity rainfall led to some flash flooding, but was not sustained enough to be serious. Details of downpours are below.
In the Riverina:
- The SES received 1089 calls for assistance across the state.
- High winds tearing sheeting off homes and the impact of large hail and wind-borne debris damaged more than 100 homes. An SES spokesman said there were 18 reports of roof damage in the Griffith local government area, 20 at Leeton, 7 at Junee, 5 at Narrandera, 3 at Tumut, 2 at Gundagai and 2 in Coolamon Shire. A roof was blown off a house in Narrandera onto powerlines, and a woman in Ganmain suffered minor injuries when the roof of her house was torn off.
- The 100-year-old Farmers Home pub at Matong, 50km NW of Wagga, lost a third of its roof and suffered serious damage. "A power pole has been snapped like a match stick and 100 to 200-year-old gum trees have been lifted out of the ground,” the publican, Mr Kevin Neumann, told the Wodonga Border Mail. At Ganmain, 10km east, the newsagent, Mr Dean Hoare, told of "sheets of roofing iron flying down the main street" and being wrapped around power poles.
- Griffith TAFE lost portion of its roof, while 60% of the roof of the East Hall residential building at Charles Sturt University in Wagga was blown off. Tumut Hospital was partially unroofed.
- Riverina grape crops, just ripe for harvest, were hard hit. Chief executive of the Winegrapes Marketing Board, Brian Simpson, told ABC Radio that some growers had reported losses of up to 50 per cent, but on average most had lost about 10 per cent. He said some had reported hail the size of tennis balls, but the wind was the most destructive force. "There are growers that are reporting that they've had whole rows blown over," he said. Hail stones measuring 2.5cm were recorded near Berrigan and up to 3cm in Leeton.
- Tree damage was widespread and severe. Fallen trees made the Tumut to Cootamundra road impassable for more than 7km. Around Narrandera, downed trees made the Newell and Sturt Highways hazardous, and council and SES crews were kept busy clearing debris from roads across much of the Riverina
- Around 23,000 properties in the south of the state were blacked out, especially in Wagga, Griffith, Leeton and Temora. Country Energy Regional Manager Wayne Lynch told ABC News the storms were the worst for electrical damage since Country Energy was formed in 2001. Lighting strikes on two 66,000-volt lines heading north from Wagga blacked out several towns and farms for hours, including Junee, Coolamon, Cootamundra, West Wyalong, and Temora.
- Flights into and out of Albury Airport were delayed for up to 3 hours.
- Culcairn recorded 47.4mm over 2.5 hours in the storm, just short of its monthly average. Albury Airport recorded 56mm over about a 12 hour period, 20.0 falling in 42 minutes to 10am.
In the North West:
- Narrabri Airport recorded a gust of 156km/h at 5.35pm with a 10-minute average speed of 96km/h. SES spokesman Rick Stone told ABC News "There was a very, very small but intense windstorm that swept through the town of Narrabri and left it without power all night. Tiles and roofing iron torn off homes and it's trees that have been uprooted, limbs flying through the air crashing into roofs," he said. "In Narrabri there are reports of up to 20 homes that are essentially uninhabitable [because they] have been partially or completely unroofed." Namoi SES received more than 80 calls for help and had to call in crews from a wide area to help clean up the damage. However, David Lindsay from Namoi Cotton told ABC Rural News that damage to cotton and sorghum crops in the district was limited. "We have heard of a couple of cotton crops that were severely hit by hail south-east of Narrabri, but other large cotton areas seemed to have escaped any major damage.
- At Boomi, 175km N of Narrabri, one home received roof damage and there was extensive hail damage to windows, including the school's.
In the Central West:
- The main street of Bribbaree, 35km SW of Grenfell, was littered with uprooted trees, sheets of roofing iron and the roof of the town's bowling club. Hundreds of trees were brought down closing roads in this area and around Grenfell, causing Bribbaree, Bimbi and Quandialla to be without power for 2 days or more and a clean-up effort that took over 7 days.
- Mudgee SES Controller Errol Grieve told ABC News "Just before 5pm several areas of town were hit by really large hailstones, really large - some the size of golf balls, some larger, jagged edged causing considerable damage to skylights. I think every skylight in Mudgee was broken yesterday afternoon." The SES received 35 calls for assistance in the town. About 100 tonnes of grapes were damaged worth about $100,000.
- A house in Cowra had its roof lifted and dumped in the street, while at Canowindra a roof was completely blown off a residence.
- Major damage was also reported in Trunkey, Canowindra and Bathurst.
On the Southern Tablelands, South Coast and Illawarra:
- SES spokesman Rick Stone told the Daily Telegraph that a house at Bellawongarah, 10km N of Nowra, was blown off its foundations and another lost its roof.
- Blackouts from damaged power lines were reported at Bega, Cooma, Numeralla and Batemans Bay. Power was off in some coastal communities east of Bega for over 8 hours.
- Kangaroo Valley Rd west of Berry was blocked by trees.
- Rail services in the Illawarra were chaotic due to lightning strikes, with power supply problems between Oak Flats and Kiama and slip detector failures at Thirroul. There were delays of over an hour as replacement bus services were organised.
- The heaviest storm totals occurred from the ACT east to the coast. Captains Flat recorded 56.2mm, leading to local flash flooding.
In and around Sydney:
- Over 22,000 homes in Sydney's west, the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands were blacked out, as well as 1000 in Jannali.
- Lightning damaged rail network equipment in the metro area and at Blackheath causing delays to trains, while many traffic lights were knocked out disrupting road traffic. Repeated close lightning strikes prevented baggage handlers at Sydney Airport loading aircraft, delaying flights by 30 minutes.
- Strong winds caused a seaplane to flip as it was attempting to take off at Rose Bay. The pilot and 3 passengers were uninjured.
WA: Perth bushfire smoke a health hazard
While the immediate threat from the bushfire SE of Perth has retreated, smoke drifting across the city yesterday and today has been causing problems of a different kind. Dense smoke resulted in 17 people requiring hospital treatment for breating-related difficulties, and health authorities warned those with respiratory problems to stay indoors. Light easterly winds dropped visibility to 2km at the airport at noon, with lower visibility in places, but a southwesterly seabreeze cleared smoke from the metro area soon afterwards. The WA Department of Environment air quality division said the smoke haze levels were the highest it had ever recorded in the metro area.
Airborne thermal imaging equipment showed the fire's perimeter today to be 150km. It has burnt through 18,000 hectares (180 sq km) of state forest, 6700ha of national park, 400ha of plantation pine and 200ha of private property. A spokesman for the Department of Conservation and Land Management, Nigel Higgs, told AAP "This is the biggest fire we have had in our northern jarrah forests for 45 years. We've had 250 firefighters on it overnight and we'll have a similar number today trying to consolidate those [containment] boundaries and mopping up."
QLD: Low gives heavy rain to the far north
Yesterday's heavy rain on the northern Cape York Peninsula continued overnight and spread southward to give high totals to the North Coast as well. Coen recorded 145mm in 6 hours to 3am for a 24 hour to 9am total of 272.0mm. Cairns Airport recorded 122mm between 3am and noon, while Daradgee, 70km SSE of Cairns, recorded 197.4 for the 24 hours to 9am. Many other high totals are listed in wettest and downpours below. The rain has closed the Peninsula Development Road in the far north.