Weather Hail, rain, wind – and dust storms – lash Victoria

Hail, rain, wind – and dust storms – lash Victoria

Lightning in Melbourne
A Twitter user captures the amazing lightning show across Melbourne on Wednesday evening. Photo: Twitter/@bloss_em
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Thousands of homes across Victoria were plunged into darkness as a dangerous thunderstorm brought giant hail, strong winds and heavy rainfall.   

Melbourne retained its reputation as the city with four seasons in one day, as 30-degree daytime temperatures were swiftly overtaken by an intense thunderstorm on Wednesday afternoon, causing a train line to stop.

More than 10,000 Powercor and Citipower customers in Victoria’s central and west regions were left without power on Wednesday while in Melbourne’s northern suburbs more than 3000 Jemena customers had lost electricity supply.

Melbourne’s Upfield line was suspended after lightning strikes damaged rail equipment with customers told to find alternative transport, Metro said on its website.

Hailstorms the size of ping-pong balls crashed across the city’s suburbs as the storm front rolled in from 6pm, lasting for about three hours.

Some areas received 30 millimetres of rain in the space of an hour. For context, the total average for the month of February is about 40 millimetres.

Wind gusts between 50km/h and 60km/h helped blow the storm across the city. The Bureau of Meteorology reported its Fawkner Beacon posted a top gust of 87km/h about 7pm.

There were not many parts of the state that were spared the event: Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula and the Gippsland region were also subject to the extreme conditions.

The bureau reported Essendon Airport was drenched by 16 millimetres of rain in 20 minutes. Sheaoaks, in the Geelong region, received 10 millimetres in nine minutes.

Back in the city, lighting strikes made commuters’ lives difficult, with the Upfield train line shut down and replaced by buses.

By 8pm, there were almost 1600 premises without power across the greater Melbourne area.

Alerts were issued early by police and the bureau, warning of hailstorms and a deluge of rain.

Road weather alerts for flash flooding were activated from 4pm, and SES and Victoria Police vehicles were on patrol for potential emergencies throughout the city.

It wasn’t just Victoria’s capital that was hit by the extreme thunderstorm – it rolled into the state from western New South Wales in the early afternoon, drenching the state’s Western districts.

Flash-flooding was recorded in the Mallee and Wimmera regions. One school in Ararat, according to The Age, was flooded.

The intense weather system also stirred up dust storms, a result of a particularly dry summer.

“Those gust fronts out in front of the storms managed to lift some dust into the air, producing some local dust storms through places like Birchip, Wycheproof and other parts of north-west Victoria,” bureau forecaster Dean Stewart told the ABC.

Looking ahead to Thursday, the bureau is predicting further thunderstorms for Melbourne, accompanied by hot conditions: A low of 22 degrees and a high of 30 degrees. Thunderstorms and north to northwesterly winds are forecast during the afternoon and evening.

-with AAP