Mini-cyclone, record floods hit Australia

MELBOURNE: Melbourne was bracing itself today 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 100 km an hour, cutting power to 100,000 homes.

Some 26 mm of rain fell on Melbourne within an hour while other areas recorded up to 70 mm 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 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.” As the city readied for further violent storms Sunday, 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, 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 today 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.