Wild day's trail of destruction
THE clean-up from the wild weather that ruined Christmas for thousands of Melburnians continued yesterday as the Bureau of Meteorology labelled it one of the most widespread severe storms the city has seen.
THE clean-up from the wild weather that ruined Christmas for thousands of Melburnians continued yesterday as the Bureau of Meteorology labelled it one of the most widespread severe storms the city has seen.The number of properties damaged by the hail, rain and flooding was likely to climb to more than 3000, with much of the clean-up effort focused on the outer-west and north.The SES yesterday called in about 100 reinforcements from country Victoria, boosting its numbers on the ground to at least 300. And Insurance Council of Australia chief executive Rob Whelan said insurance companies had handled more than 1000 inquiries by yesterday afternoon. He predicted the damage bill could hit tens of millions of dollars.Senior bureau forecaster Scott Williams said it was the most long-lived severe storm to hit the city since the Brighton cyclone of 1918, which killed two people. Mr Williams said while hail may have been larger and more damaging in a storm in March last year, Sunday's weather affected a far larger area and flash floods and tornadoes made it exceptionally dangerous."This was probably the most [severe widespread] we've had in modern times in Melbourne," he said."I think it affected a far bigger part of metropolitan area [than the storm last March], there was large hail and flooding in many suburbs and three severe storm cells that came across and very significant wind damage as well."It's just a miracle people didn't drown . . . particularly in the Eltham and Hurstbridge area."Flash floods upturned cars and several people needed rescuing in Eltham, where there were 175 SES call-outs.The Eltham Retirement Centre, home to 200 residents, was hit by a wave of floodwater when a nearby railway embankment burst. It sent water up to a metre deep into 40 units at around 7pm when some residents were settling in for the night. Centre spokesman Mark Sketcher said while 30 residents needed evacuating it was lucky that no one was injured."[Residents] are old and frail and there is limited visibility in some cases," he said."So it was very disorientating and scary for them."It was the element of surprise that caught everyone out."Taylors Lakes was the worst-affected suburb, with 434 SES call-outs by yesterday afternoon. At the nearby Taylors Hill Retirement Village, about 80 per cent of the 199 villas and apartments were damaged.Manager Graham Cook said golf ball-sized hail rained down on the homes. "It has hit the terracotta tile roofs and gone through them like a bullet," he said. "Carpets, plaster ceiling walls and light fittings have been damaged . . . it is quite amazing that no one was injured."SES spokesman Lachlan Quick said there had been about 3200 SES call-outs, compared with about 10,000 call-outs in March last year. He said he understood people's frustration with delays in repair times but asked for understanding. "People are keen to get their emergency repairs done but we've got volunteers who worked through Christmas Day and Boxing Day."