Residents in greater Sydney bunkered down after being warned of potential “tornado activity” on Thursday afternoon and while the worst fears didn’t eventuate the city was hit by a series of thunderstorms that caused flash flooding, traffic accidents and power outages.
The severe storms also ripped the roof off a Westfield shopping centre at Mount Druitt which resulted in water gushing into stores and the mall before distressed shoppers were evacuated. There were no reports of serious injuries.
The Bureau of Meteorology on Thursday issued a severe thunderstorm warning for much of the New South Wales coastline including the potential for a tornado in western Sydney.
There were photographs showing funnel clouds but they are not classified as tornados unless they touch the ground.
Parts of the city did experience sustained severe storm conditions with strong winds over 90km/h, heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Footage from Penrith, in the city’s far west, showed large hail blanketing some streets. The stones that hit Sydney mostly measured between 3cm and 5cm but some were even larger.
The warning was downgraded in the early evening as the thunderstorms pushed offshore, bureau meteorologist Jackson Browne said.
“People will still possibly get some large hail,” he said. “But more likely small hail, just in the Sydney basin area.”
But at 7pm on Thursday, the warning was again upgraded for almost the entire NSW coastal region, extending from Moruya to Lismore.
Browne said the bureau rarely issued tornado activity warnings in city areas – the last was in 2015 – but the indications were there on Thursday. “We looked at a variety of observational and forecast data. Manny days out, we had a rough idea there was going to be a large-scale storm outbreak. And within that … there was going to be, additionally, some quite severe storms,” he said.
“This particular storm was rotating … a trigger for us to issue a tornado warning.”
The Fire and Rescue NSW reported dozens of incidents following the storm. Three vehicles became stranded by floodwaters in Guilford.
The state’s emergency services agency warned that “hundreds” of lightning strikes were reported across the state.
The warning area covered an area stretching from Armidale in the west, Grafton in the north and Goulburn in the south. The bureau released a specific warning for anyone driving on the M1 motorway which connects Sydney with the Central Coast and Hunter region of the state, saying large hail was expected.
By late afternoon, energy provider Ausgrid was reporting power outages in suburbs on the state’s Central Coast, including at Bensville, Blackwall and Booker Bay.
The storms were expected to stretch inland too, with Armidale, Tamworth and Goulburn also in the firing line. Residents in Goulburn had already reported 3cm hailstones on Thursday afternoon.
In the early morning, thunderstorms deposited up to 30mm of rain on parts of Canberra, with more likely on Thursday evening.
There could be showers in Sydney on Friday but the severe storms were moving north to impact northern NSW and Queensland, Browne said.
The Bom in Queensland on Thursday evening issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Sunshine Coast and near Hervey Bay.
- with Australian Associated Press
Source : https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/14/sydney-storm-warning-tornado-alert-hail-nsw-dangerous-severe-weather-radar-forecast935