(AFP) – Mar 7, 2010
MELBOURNE — Melbourne was bracing for more bad weather Sunday after a "beast of a storm" ripped through Australia's second largest city, bringing with it hailstones the size of tennis balls.
The mini-cyclone which smashed into the regional capital with winds of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) an hour was an event which had likely not been seen since early last century, Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Kevin Parkyn said.
"The weather system that brought the damage to Melbourne is known in meteorological terms as a supercell thunderstorm, an organised beast of a storm that once it gets going tends to last more than your average thunderstorm," he said.
The fierce storm, which flooded city streets, saw some 26 millimetres (one inch) of rain fall on Melbourne within an hour Saturday while other areas recorded up to 70 millimetres.
In the city centre the National Gallery of Victoria suffered flooding, while the Docklands Stadium was among those buildings damaged during the storm, which washed out horse races.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Wasyl Drosdowsky said the hail that hit in one suburban area was up to 10 centimetres (four inches) in diameter.
"(It was) tennis ball size roughly," he said. "As far as we can tell, that's close to the biggest hail we've seen in Melbourne."
More than 4,000 people contacted emergency services for help as the hail left the city blanketed in what looked like snow.
With more violent storms on the way late Sunday and Monday, Victorian Premier John Brumby urged people to be careful, particularity in areas hit by bushfires a year ago which have unstable trees weakened by the flames.
"There have been no reported fatalities or serious injuries. For that we are grateful," he said.
"People really should take great care... and make sure we put this focus on protecting life and protecting public safety because all the advice is that it will be a pretty difficult period."
As the city readied for further violent storms Sunday and Monday, once-in-a-century floods were peaking in the state of Queensland in the country's northeast, parts of which have been in drought for almost a decade.
Townships in the state's cotton-growing south were cut off by rising flood waters and in St George the Balonne River reached 13.5 metres (44 feet), its highest level since records began in 1890.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the cost of the flooding would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, as there had been major damage to highways and rail lines had been washed away.
"This is a massive water event which has smashed all the records known here in the southwest," she told reporters Sunday as she toured St George.
"All this water ultimately is going to mean great things for local (farmers) but there is a lot of pain to be felt in these communities before we can see total recovery."
In the nearby tiny town of Nindigully, residents were marvelling at the amount of water surrounding the rural outpost.
"Overall, we are happy to have experienced this flood because of the beauty of vast expanses of water through the bush that you never forget," Steve Burns, the owner of the 146-year-old Nindigully Pub told AAP.
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