Wild winds, lightning strikes cause bushfire havoc

Wild winds, lightning strikes cause bushfire havoc

12 January 2008

published by www.theaustralian.news.com.au 

Sydney, Australia — A Mini-Tornado battered the north of Victoria, lightning strikes ignited fires in the east and authorities battled to keep control of a blaze in the west as the turbulent weather caused havoc across the state.

The State Emergency Service received more than 100 calls for help in Euroa, Sorrento and Frankston as winds from a cool change that swept through the state at midday brought down trees and damaged homes.

The sudden 10C drop from a sweltering 37C also caused dramas on the state’s firefronts, as the wind change made it more difficult for firefighters to battle a 450ha blaze between Ballarat and Geelong.

Authorities were last night using helicopters to waterbomb the fire and residents in nearby towns were warned to stay vigilant despite cooler conditions.

Lightning from thunderstorms moving across Victoria’s east caused five fires to break out and authorities were concerned that this could continue through the night.

Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman Stuart Ord said: “There’s a cold front moving through the state and associated with that there’s a large and wide band of lightning.

“We’re expecting more lightning strikes as the front moves through the state.”

A State Emergency Service spokeswoman said there had been a rush of calls for help after winds of up to 100km/h battered much of Victoria, from Euroa in the north to Sorrento on the coast.

“Most of them were wind damage with falling trees and roof damage,” she said.

Locals in Nagambie, in the state’s north, described the huge winds as a mini-tornado that ripped through the town, leaving destruction in its wake.

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Geoff Feren said the temperature dropped rapidly across the state.

“We have certainly had the cool change come through,” he said.

“It dropped from 37C at around midday by 10C very quickly. We are still getting some thunderstorms in eastern Victoria and gusts of up to 100km/h with those storms.”

Mr Feren said the forecast for the weekend was for temperatures in the mid-20s.

“It’s a bit of respite for a while,” he said.

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