Weather Thousands without power as wind lashes Victoria
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Thousands without power as wind lashes Victoria

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A car under a fallen tree in West Melbourne on Thursday. Photo: AAP
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Hundreds of thousands of Victorians have woken up without power after thunderstorms and wild winds lashed the state.

The Victoria State Emergency Service received more than 1500 calls for help in the 24 hours to 8.30am on Friday, with the most affected areas including Ballarat, Bendigo and Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

“We’ve seen an impact right across the north-west of the state, Bendigo, Ballarat, and really seeing those damaging winds impacting across Melbourne now,” Jamie Devenish from the SES told ABC Radio Melbourne.

He said the number of calls was expected to rise in coming hours, as people woke to discover damage to their properties.

There were already 1100 reports of trees down and 216 reports of building damage, with those numbers expected to rise as Victorians report more damage.

More than 300,000 households are without power.

An Ausnet official told the ABC it had 128,000 customers without power, and with the storm still moving through it was unsafe for crews to start restoration work.

Powercor and Citipower have 183,000 customers out, with Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Terang badly hit.

Most metropolitan and regional train services have been suspended and dozens of major roads are closed, including the Eastern and Western Freeways.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds across much of the state on Friday, with winds averaging 60-70km/h and peak gusts of 100km/h expected to develop along western and central Victorian coasts during the morning.

The winds will pass through Melbourne then extend to Gippsland in the middle of the day.

The weather bureau’s Michael Laczko said it would likely be midday before conditions eased.

“Winds are increasing this morning and we’re expecting damaging wind gusts to be a risk all through southern Victoria and all through the ranges and elevated areas today,” he told the ABC.

“The highest risk in the Melbourne area looks to be from about 7 or 8am for a few hours until about 10 or 11am.”

The highest wind gusts reported so far include 143km/h at Mount William in the Grampians, 119km/h at Melbourne Airport and 115km/h at St Kilda in inner-Melbourne.

More than 4000 lightning strikes were detected within a 400-kilometre radius of Maryborough, about 168 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.

The Department of Transport said speeds had been reduced to 40km/h across the West Gate Bridge due to the high winds, while buses were replacing trains on the suburban Glen Waverley line between Darling to Glen Waverley due to a fallen tree.

Due to power outages, many sets of traffic lights are out, while there is the potential for fallen powerlines.

The department has urged Victorians to drive with care through all intersections and should they encounter fallen power lines stay clear to call triple zero.

“With high winds expected to continue this morning, drivers should be vigilant on the roads and ensure nothing distracts their focus from the road. Deferring your travel may be the best option,” it said.

One caller told ABC Radio Melbourne she had never seen anything like the storms that hit Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula.

“I’ve never seen so many trees down, trees ripped out of the ground, there’s just mess absolutely everywhere,” she said.

The storm also caused widespread damage in South Australia, leaving more than 30,000 homes and businesses in Adelaide without power.

The state’s emergency service is responding to 178 calls for help, mostly involving downed trees.

-with AAP