|Keep your eye on Geelong in this sequence of hourly radar and lightning tracker images from about 3pm to 3am Thursday. A succession of storms seemed magnetically attracted to the city, giving it one of its worst storms in decades. Weatherzone, BoM, Kattron.
VIC, TAS, SA: Floods, fires, heat and storms
A wild concoction of summer weather was experienced across three states today. It was generated by the unusual combination of very high temperatures and a build-up of high humidity levels over SE SA, VIC and TAS following days of N to NE winds dragging tropical moisture into the area. Storms exploded over the three states during the afternoon producing massive flooding in Geelong, repeat flooding in Warrnambool and Murray Bridge, and a rare summer storm in Hobart, the wind gusting to 85km/h at the airport. Lightning induced fires kept firefighters busy in SA and VIC.
High humidity kept overnight minima well above average in SE SA and western VIC, where Hamilton's 24.3 was 13.6 above average. Day time temperatures reached into the high 30s in all three states, giving impressive departures from normal in TAS -- 34.2 at Cape Bruny was 16.0 above.
In SA, a line of storms developed rapidly around 3pm from Whyalla to Mt Gambier and moved only very slowly east over the next 9 hours. One cell remained locked over Murray Bridge for two hours, bringing a small-scale repeat of the flooding witnessed in the town in December with homes and shops in Adelaide Road again being inundated. Lightning started 10 fires overnight and today in an area from Naracoorte to Kingston, including two large ones in the Ngarkat Conservation Park NE of Keith.
In VIC, storms fired up at scattered locations across the western half of the state mid afternoon, followed by the development of an organised band of storms late afternoon along a troughline that moved slowly across the western districts during the evening, finally dying out in central districts around 3am Thursday.
Geelong experienced one thunderstorm after another as cells regenerated overhead and were finally replaced by the broad band of storms moving across from the west late evening. 98mm was recorded at the airport between 5.30pm and 10pm; South Geelong recorded 128mm, North Geelong 120 and Belmont 105mm in the storm. (A breakdown of Geelong's rainfall is given in downpours.) Hail up to 2cm diameter fell, and wind gusted to 93km/h at the airport but 117km/h at Point Wilson, 15km NE of the CBD.
The SES fielded over 500 calls for help as flash flooding swamped cars and entered buildings, and wind brought down powerlines and trees and damaged buildings. Grovedale, Corio and Belmont were the worst-hit suburbs. Grovedale Primary School gymnasium had two walls and the roof collapse. Flooding blocked traffic on Princes Highway and Great Ocean Road, and 7 vehicles had to be towed out of flooded roads.
Warrnambool also experienced flooding when its business district drains could not cope. The airport recorded 21mm in less than an hour before 6pm, but rain in the city may have been heavier. Several shops were flooded to depths of 60cm, a furniture store had an internal ceiling collapse and the SES had 28 callouts. 900 homes in North Warrnambool lost power, as well as 3,000 in Yambuk and Port Fairy.
Lightning ignited dozens of fires across western VIC overnight and today. DSE Information Officer John Amor told The Age "The storm just came and sat in the Dartmoor-Casterton area and dropped lightning all night." A fire that began 8km SE of Casterton burnt through 400ha of state forest and closed the Glenelg Highway for most of the day. Three fires converged to burn out 2,600ha of the Little Desert National Park NW of Horsham. Other fires were reported at Tallarook near Seymour and at Scarsdale near Ballarat.
QLD: Rain and flooding ease, but not the seas
Rain continued to ease on the Central Coast today. The heaviest 24-hour falls to 9am were around Mackay, where local flooding overnight saw a woman trapped on a car roof for half an hour after she tried to cross a flooded causeway at Walkerston. The most significant flooding has been in the Cape River, a western tributary of the Burdekin which flows into Burdekin Falls Dam. The river peaked at Taemas at 3am at 8.19m with major flooding; strong inflow into the dam had water thundering 3.14m over the spillway at 7am. Minor flooding continued in the lower Burdekin, Funnel Creek, Connors River and Gilbert River. Heavy rain around Richmond yesterday afternoon has led to renewed minor flooding in the Flinders River.
The tropical low responsible for this flood event still remains steadfastly in the Townsville area. Forecasters and computer guidance have been trying to move it off to the southeast for days, but the low will have none of it and impishly moved slightly northeast overnight. A strong, long-lived southeasterly stream between the low and a strong high in the southern Tasman has developed a powerful swell. Three-metre seas closed half of the Gold Coast's 40 beaches today.
NSW: Minor flooding on Mid North Coast
Locally heavy rain in the Bellinger River Valley SW of Coffs Harbour over the past two days produced a minor flood peak of 3.80m at Thora at 11.30 last night. Minor flooding continues, isolating some properties on the Darkwood Road SW of Thora. Dorrigo recorded 166.2mm in the 2 days ended 9am.