Severe thunderstorm and worst hailstorm since 2010 wreak havoc across Perth, Australia


Ferocious thunderstorm with damaging winds up to 126 km/h (78 mph) and hailstones the size of tennis balls — about 6 cm (2 inches) in diameter — lashed Perth, Australia on February 25, 2020, wreaking havoc across the city and causing chaos during peak-hour traffic.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasts another bout of intense storms and more showers for the region in the following days, with severe warnings in place for the city's southern suburbs.

Powerful winds broke through roofs, sending rain and tree branches inside establishments. Uprooted trees also collapsed on top of cars, but no serious injuries were reported.

Wind gusts up to 126 km/h (78 mph) were recorded at Kalannie and 106 km/h (66 mph) at Latham.

One driver on Harborne Street managed to escape a severe injury when a huge tree fell onto her car, crushing the middle section.

"The guys who jumped out to help, they couldn't open the front door and I thought 'oh no'," said one witness.

Police said the woman was trapped in the vehicle for some time but was eventually rescued and taken to Royal Perth Hospital.

"I was convinced the person wasn't going to get out of the car. It was only when I saw it on the news or someone told me later that the person had got out that I was so relieved," the witness added.

Electricity supply was cut off to thousands of residents as the storm also toppled power lines.

Western Power said about 18 000 homes and businesses were affected at the peak of the outages, with the most impacted metro areas being North Beach, Trigg, Karrinyup, Balga, Hamersley, Balcatta, Yokine, Menora, Coolbinia, Nollamara, Tuart Hill, Osborne Park, Stirling, and Inglewood.

Furthermore, the water supply was affected to about 100 residents, according to Victoria Plains Shire president Pauline Bantock.

The area was also pounded by hailstones the size of tennis balls or roughly 6 cm (2 inches), according to ABC Perth.

Bantock added that she had never seen hail like it, adding that it was bigger than a golf ball. "It just came down in a flood and lasted for about 10 minutes all up."

The hailstorm caused extensive damage particularly to vehicles, leaving windows shattered.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) chief superintended Stuart Wade said it was the worst storm to hit Perth since the 2010 March hailstorms.

The main areas affected were East Victoria Park, Menora, Nollamara, Clarkson, Carlisle, and Heathridge.

DFES district officer Allan Gayle said they received more than 700 emergency calls, mostly about fire, people trapped in cars, and gas leaks.

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Peak-hour traffic bore the brunt of the storm as train services were disrupted due to signaling problems. Debris also blocked traffic on Great Eastern Highway in Belmont.

Flooding was reported on the Mitchel Freeway northbound near Warwick Road.

The Somerly Primary School in the city's north was closed Wednesday for repair and cleanups after several classrooms were inundated.

Moreover, the Lathlain Primary School and West Leederville Primary School also needed repairs after winds tore trees down.

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A severe thunderstorm warning is in effect for the southern suburbs of Perth on Wednesday, February 26, as the severe weather is expected to affect Mandurah, Henderson, Rockingham, Secret Harbour, Nambeelup, North Dandalup, and Pinjarra.

Meanwhile, BOM forecasts more storms and showers for Thursday and Friday, February 27 and 28, before conditions ease on the weekend and the following week.

The bureau predicted a 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms with easterly winds of up to 35 km/h (22 mph). Perth Coastal Plain and Perth Hills are under high fire danger.

It will be mostly sunny beginning Saturday, February 29, but there is still a chance of a thunderstorm particularly in the northeast area early morning.

Featured image credit: Neil Ashcroft

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