Storms, floods hit Australia

2010-03-08 07:59

Melbourne - Melbourne was bracing itself on Sunday for further storms after a mini-cyclone ripped through Australia's second largest city, bringing with it hail stones the size of tennis balls.

The storm dumped heavy rain across the southern state of Victoria, and smashed into the regional capital with winds of up to 100km/h, cutting power to 100 000 homes.

Some 26mm of rain fell on Melbourne within an hour while other areas recorded up to 70mm during the Saturday storm.

"Yesterday we had golf-to-tennis ball-sized hail and certainly there's a prospect of similar sized hail somewhere in the state today," Richard Carlyon, the Bureau of Meteorology's senior forecaster, told ABC radio.

"Whether it's Melbourne I'm not so sure about... but if it's not Melbourne, I think there's a very good prospect of large hail being reported somewhere in the state."

In the city centre the National Gallery of Victoria suffered flooding, while the Docklands Stadium was among those buildings damaged during the violent storm, which washed out horse races.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Wasyl Drosdowsky said the hail that hit in one suburban area was up to 10cm in diameter.

Once-in-a-century

"(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."

As the city readied for further violent storms on Sunday, once-in-a-century floods were peaking in the state of Queensland in the country's north east, 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 13.5m, 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 south west," she told reporters on 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.

- SAPA
Read more on:    australia  |  weather
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