Destructive winds lashing Australia’s south-east have destroyed part of a major Melbourne pier, sending the end of the structure loose into the ocean.
The State Emergency Service (SES) said part of the pier at Frankston, in Melbourne’s outer south-east, had become detached.
Frankston worker Chris Ransom saw the piece of the pier floating away from his office building and told the ABC it appeared it was heading north.
The area experienced wind gusts of more than 110 kilometres per hour on Friday morning as a deep polar low moved across the region, seeing flights cancelled and prompting warnings of traffic chaos and blizzards.
“This is the coldest outbreak the south-east has seen this year,” Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Rohan Smyth said.
Frankston Pier starting to break up and drift off
Posted by Everything Mornington Peninsula on Thursday, August 8, 2019
Domestic flights hit by delays
Domestic and international flights at Sydney Airport were affected by the weather, with multiple cancellations on services on Friday morning.
Melbourne Airport said 23 domestic flights had been cancelled, but international services were not impacted.
Both airports urged travellers to check directly with their airlines to see if their travel would be affected.
Conditions had eased in South Australia on Friday morning, but more than 5500 customers remained without power after outages across the state.
Heading to the snow?⛷️The Great Alpine Road, the main road into Mt Hotham is closed between Harrietville and Hotham Village due to heavy snowfall, poor visibility, and strong winds.
The Omeo approach is still open. Follow @VicTraffic for updates. pic.twitter.com/SxY0stjbXt
— VicRoads (@VicRoads) August 8, 2019
The snow fields in Victoria and New South Wales experienced a major dump of snow overnight, and blizzard and avalanche warnings remained in place.
Melbourne and south-west Victoria are experiencing the worst of the weather on Friday morning, with damaging winds intensifying in the capital before peaking about 9am.
The outer south-eastern suburbs near Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula bore the full force of the winds, but the CBD and northern suburbs escaped the worst of the weather.
Cape Otway, south-west of Melbourne, experienced wind gusts of up to 115km/h early on Friday morning.
So much snow at Perisher the heavy machinery is needed to clear the snow!! ❄❄❄Video: Perisher
Posted by SNOWSEARCH australia on Thursday, August 8, 2019
Hundreds of calls for help
Motorists were urged to take extra caution during peak hour traffic and the SES issued a road weather alert for “dangerous” driving conditions.
“Following the wild weather overnight and continuing this morning there’s plenty of debris out there,” Andrew Crook from Victoria’s Department of Transport said.
“Lots of water on the road. Please take it easy. Look out for fallen branches and trees and if you come across fallen power lines, don’t approach them,” he said, adding people should call triple zero in emergency situations.
Speed limits were dropped down to 60km/h on Melbourne’s busy Bolte and West Gate bridges due to the strong and gusty winds.
Victoria’s SES said it had received more than 475 calls for help between 8pm and 10am, mostly due to fallen trees and some building damage.
More than 1500 customers were without power across the state at about 7:30am.
Worst to come for NSW, ACT
South Australia felt the brunt of the low through Thursday night and early Friday morning, with a severe weather warning remaining in place for Mount Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island and parts of Adelaide Metropolitan, Yorke Peninsula, Murraylands and Upper South East districts.
Widespread areas of dust were reported over parts of SA’s Mid North, Riverland and Murraylands districts.
SA SES state duty officer Tony Costello said the state’s emergency service had received about 340 calls for assistance in a “fairly hectic” 24 hours.
The high winds and poor visibility made it difficult for emergency services to reach the scene of a fatal truck collision on the Stuart Highway near South Australia’s Barossa Valley region.
— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) August 9, 2019
The cold blast is expected to bring rain, thunder and hail to Victoria throughout the day, before moving east to NSW and the ACT.
The “worst of the cold air” was expected to reach NSW on Saturday, Mr Smyth said.
In NSW, most of the state’s east coast was issued a damaging wind warning for more than 90 kph on Friday.
The regions at risk are the Hunter, Sydney Metropolitan, Illawarra, Southern Tablelands, Snowy Mountains, Australian Capital Territory and parts of Mid North Coast, South Coast, Central Tablelands, South West Slopes and Northern Tablelands.
Snow dump increases avalanche risk
Victoria’s ski resorts, which have been experiencing lacklustre snowfalls so far this season, are expecting the winter storm to bring welcome snow to bolster low base levels.
A blizzard warning for Victoria and NSW’s alpine areas remained in place, with winds expected to peak at 120km/h.
“This dump of snow will increase the risk of avalanche, so skiers outside of resort areas should assess the avalanche risk,” Mr Smyth said.
The Great Alpine Road in Victoria has been closed between Harrietville and Mount Hotham due to heavy snow.
Just before 5:30am, the apparent temperature at Thredbo top station was -22 degrees.
It was forecast to snow at altitudes as low as 500 metres in Victoria, including near the Dandenong Ranges, just east of Melbourne’s suburban fringe, and near the central town of Ballarat.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has recommended backcountry travel be postponed until conditions improve.