A team of severe weather meteorologists is investigating whether a rare tornado event struck the western Victorian town of Horsham overnight.
Residents woke at 1am on Monday as high winds ripped roofs from houses, downing trees, breaking windows and scattering debris across roads.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Christopher Arvier said it was likely the damage stemmed from a strong downburst during some showers as some residents described tornado-like conditions.
“In Horsham at the time, the strongest winds were only around 50km/h, which is still reasonably strong and fresh winds but you’d expect to see higher winds associated with that level of damage,” he said on Monday.
“[But] there is a possibility that it was a tornado,” Mr Arvier said.
The storm hit Horsham, in the state’s north-west, after midnight, with winds ripping roofs from houses, downing trees and breaking windows.
There were 74 calls for help to the SES in the area from 1-10am, with a distinct line of incidents to the north of the town.
Two people were trapped inside their home at Perkins Court when a neighbour’s roof blocked their door, with damage to four properties forcing occupants to relocate.
“It was very, very localised the damage that we saw in Horsham last night,” Mr Arvier said.
He said tornadoes were quite rare in Victoria, with only one or two forming across the state each year.
But a team of severe weather meteorologists is evaluating the weather event, with a preliminary assessment expected to be completed on Monday afternoon.
“Unstable air can lead to lots of updrafts and downdrafts in the atmosphere and when you get that sort of stretching of the atmosphere, you can start to see the winds turn and become tornado-like.”
‘She’s all gone’: Residents wake to severe storm
Resident Dave Taylor told the Wimmera Mail-Times the freak storm had destroyed his home.
The paper reported Mr Taylor woke to “the sight of the moon” as high winds blew his roof off, scattered bricks onto his front porch, leaving him to find temporary accommodation.
“I thought, “What the heck is going on here?”‘ Mr Taylor said.
“I felt the bed around me, and it felt like I had crumbs all through my bed. I got up, shined a torch on it, and it was all insulation, plaster, and rubble.
“I went out to see how bad the damage was, and I realised my roof was completely gone.
“I couldn’t believe it.”
His front verandah collapsed, windows were broken, and bricks from his chimney were scattered up to 30 metres away.
“It stripped everything,” Mr Taylor said.
“That’s the bit I’m peeved about; I spent 16 years renovating, putting love and money into this place, and in half an hour, she’s all gone. It’s a bit upsetting.
“We knew we were going to have wind and rain last night, but nothing like this,” he told the paper.
Another resident Mick Parish told Weatherzone: “I was asleep in bed when I woke at 1 am to what sounded like a truck coming through the house”.
“It was really windy and really noisy and there was bugger all rain – though what rain we had came in really big drops.
“The whole thing only lasted probably three or four minutes. It just ripped through.”
Thousands without power
More than 3200 residents lost power but it was all restored by 10am on Monday, electricity company Powercor said.
As of 2pm on Monday, VICSES had received another 23 calls for assistance with many residents calling for help for “significant building damage”.