Extreme weather events have broken historic rainfall records, caused wild winds and prompted unusually cold conditions across most of Australia on Friday, with more yet to come.
Parts of Gippsland in eastern Victoria are bracing for a month’s rain — as much as 100mm — on Saturday as the low pressure system that made Friday a sodden, wind-lashed taste of winter does its worst.
New South Wales and the ACT are also beginning to feel the effects of the complex system, as it brings damaging westerly winds to the NSW ranges and the Illawarra.
The island state’s capital was brought to a standstill on Friday as record-breaking rainfall caused schools to shut down, legal proceedings to halt and businesses to be evacuated.
In the 24 hours leading up to 9am on Friday, Hobart experienced its wettest day since 1960 with the CBD and surrounding suburbs receiving more than 120 millimetres of rain.
Sarah Sitton, extreme weather meteorologist from the Bureau of Meteorology, told The New Daily that by Friday morning, Mount Wellington had recorded 236 millimetres.
“That was the second-highest-ever May rainfall in a single day for Tasmania. It was the highest rainfall that’s ever been recorded at Mount Wellington,” Ms Sitton said.
The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the resultant damage a catastrophe
Extensive flash flooding caused more than 15,000 homes to lose power and cars to be swept down streets that had become raging streams.
As plans for a massive cleanup get slowly underway, public health officials warned that flooded sewers had disgorged their contents onto streets and homes.
There were more than 400 calls for assistance to the SES and a further 110 requests for help from the Tasmania Fire Service.
The Insurance Council of Australia declared the resultant damage as an official catastrophe
SES director Andrew Lea said the flooding was unprecedented.
“I have been in this job for 17 years and I haven’t seen an event of this scale in the Hobart area, so it is very significant,” he said.
The Supreme Court paused all proceedings, advising those affected to contact the court’s telephone advice line.
In Hobart, Graham Family Funerals postponed services, Wrest Point Casino closed its doors and education officials shut more than 30 state schools for the day.
Leaks and flooding at the Royal Hobart Hospital led to the closure of 15 beds, including in oncology intensive care and paediatrics. Seven of the beds remained out of action after the hospital lifted its emergency “code yellow” on Friday afternoon.
— Ben Lohberger (@BenGlenHuon) May 11, 2018
The University of Tasmania’s southern campuses were also closed.
A security guard in its Sandy Bay campus became trapped in a windowless room that was quickly filling with water.
“The man was luckily uninjured but shaken by the experience,” police said in a statement.
Two people were also rescued from a car at suburban New Town after they ignored warnings and attempted to drive through flood waters.
Heavy rainfall and damaging winds had cleared in the south of Tasmania, Ms Sitton said on Friday afternoon.
There remained a severe weather warning for central and the northern parts of the state on Friday.
“There will still be some showers around and some fairly blustery conditions but in terms of the heavy rainfall and damaging winds, that’s just today for Tasmania,” she said.
New South Wales
Residents in central NSW woke up on Friday to a blanket of snow as a cold snap swept through the state.
A light dusting covered the Central Tablelands overnight on Thursday, with higher mountain peaks receiving a few centimetres.
Ms Sitton said the state’s coldest weather had passed.
“We can expect to see some very strong winds around the southern coastal area and also extending up to the Queensland border,” she added.
NSW is expected to see, “some hazardous surf conditions move from the southern coastal district on Friday evening and then make their way slowly up the coast into Saturday and then Sunday,” Ms Sitton said.
Victoria’s alpine regions received significant snowfall on Friday – their first big falls for the season, Ms Sitton said, with more expected.
“We also saw some very windy conditions through the south-west of the state overnight and those damaging winds are extending to central parts of the state today and then extending to eastern-parts of the state later tonight and into tomorrow morning.”
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Someone get that gorilla an umbrella! Think it's just humans that didn't like the rain today? #MelbourneZoo's super tough silverback gorilla Otana wasn't a fan either. Video credit: Ryan McDonough @BOM_Vic #Melbourne #MelbWeather pic.twitter.com/Ttf7ZGwZAZ
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While Melbourne did not experience the same weather extremes seen in parts of Tasmania, more rain fell in 24 hours than during all of April, which was unseasonably warm.
But there was no hint of an Indian summer on Friday as about 26mm pelted down up to 3pm and heavier falls soaking the Dandenong Ranges.
Even though the rain shed its intensity overnight, it did not mean the severe weather was over.
“We’re starting to see some stronger wind gusts through central Victoria,” Ms Sitton said, adding that Melbourne had to contend with wind gusts of 90-100km/h on Friday afternoon and evening.
— Hotham (@_hotham) May 10, 2018
Meanwhile, Western Australia has escaped “all of this wintery weather” and is experiencing some “late season warmth”, Ms Sitton said.
“Perth is getting northeasterly winds so they’re getting that warm air through that’s filtering down through the centre of the country.
“We’re forecasting 30 degrees for Friday and again on Saturday.”
Western and southern parts of Queensland experienced relatively cool temperatures.
“Those cooler conditions are really going to extend through most of Queensland on Saturday and into the weekend,” Ms Sitton said.
“We may also see some areas of frost in coming days over southern Queensland with some cooler temperatures through southern inland parts overnight.”
South Australia experienced “fairly benign conditions” on Friday, Ms Sitton said.
People could expect to see a “shower or two” on Friday but temperatures would remain close to average for this time of year.
It was “fairly dry and fairly calm” through most of the Northern territory on Friday, Ms Sitton said.
“We’re seeing a strong high pressure system push some dry and stable air up into the Northern Territory.”
The state will experience much cooler conditions into the weekend.
Australian Capital Territory
Canberra experienced “very cold and windy conditions” and some light rainfall, Ms Sitton said.
There was potential for damaging winds on Friday, with rainfall and winds starting to ease on Saturday and temperatures rising “into the high teens” by next week, Ms Sitton added.
– With AAP