Severe thunderstorms wreaked havoc on Australia’s east coast, resulting in two fatalities and leaving over 100,000 homes without power. The storms, affecting all three eastern states on Monday, prompted over 1,200 calls for assistance to state emergency services. Sydney airport recorded its wettest Christmas Day on record.
In Victoria, a man lost his life in Caringal when a tree branch fell on him on Tuesday morning. Similarly, in Helensvale on the Gold Coast, a woman died on Monday night after being struck by a falling tree. The scenes were described as “like a disaster zone” by paramedic Jaye Newton, who noted the extraordinary nature of the weather event.
Queensland’s deputy premier, Cameron Dick, characterized the weather as a “mini cyclone,” stressing the unprecedented intensity of the storm. Power poles were torn out of the ground, and a concrete power pole was damaged for the first time by a storm, reflecting the severity of the destructive weather. Hundreds of thousands of lightning strikes caused significant damage to the energy and power network across the southeast, leading to widespread blackouts.
The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service reported winds reaching up to 120 km/h, resulting in fallen trees, damage to homes and buildings, and a range of other incidents. Queensland Deputy Commissioner Kevin Walsh described the aftermath as numerous trees falling onto homes and the motorway, creating challenging conditions for emergency responders.
In New South Wales (NSW), more than 500 volunteers assisted the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) in rescue and repair efforts. Flash flooding was reported on the South Coast, with SES attending six flood rescues. The weather pattern, featuring clear mornings followed by intense storms in the evening, was expected to persist on Boxing Day, with severe storms possible across a large part of the country from central Queensland to Melbourne.
The Bureau of Meteorology warned sailors participating in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race to prepare for choppy conditions, including heavy rainfall, lightning, poor visibility, and potentially hail. Additionally, the cricket Test against Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground faced the threat of severe weather on the first day. The NSW SES responded to a total of 312 incidents on top of the 492 recorded on Christmas Eve, underscoring the widespread impact of the intense storms.