Rare tornado rips through Sydney, damaging beachside suburbs

A rare tornado hit Sydney on Wednesday with destructive winds above 200 km an hour (125 mph) and cricket ball-sized hail, bringing down trees and power lines, sheering off roofs and walls and causing flash flooding in Australia's largest city.
Channel NewsAsia 16 Dec 15;

SYDNEY: A rare tornado hit Sydney on Wednesday with destructive winds above 200 km an hour (125 mph) and cricket ball-sized hail, bringing down trees and power lines, sheering off roofs and walls and causing flash flooding in Australia's largest city.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued the rare tornado warning around midday as the dangerous storm swept up the coast from Sydney's south, forcing some international and domestic flights to be diverted to other cities.

A Reuters witness described widespread damage at an industrial park in the hard-hit Kurnell neighbourhood near the southern beachside suburb of Cronulla.

"We really had no warning. The sky just went really black and we had this massive clap of thunder," said Meredith Sullivan, a 48-year-old worker at the industrial park.

"Then the gusts of winds were just horrific, you could hear the roof starting to lift and debris was starting to fly around. All the cars were pretty much destroyed," she said.

Kurnell, which is close to Sydney's airport, was closed to all but emergency services, who were assessing the damage. Wind gusts as high as 213 kmh (132 mph) were recorded there.

"There is obvious evidence that we have had a tornado go through Cronulla today," BOM meteorologist Alan Sharp told Sydney media.

Social media was swamped by pictures of the huge, dark storm as it engulfed the harbour city, plunging a 25 degree Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) summer's day into darkness.

A shopping centre in Sydney's eastern suburbs was also evacuated after part of its roof collapsed in the storm, media reports showed, and one woman suffered minor injuries.

Some 6,000 homes were reportedly without power south of the city and rescue services received more than 200 calls for help in the city.

"The tornado risk has now subsided but there is a very good chance of more thunderstorm activity for the rest of today," said BOM senior meteorologist James Taylor.

Australia is experiencing an El NiƱo weather pattern, a phenomenon associated with extreme droughts, storms and floods, which is expected to become one of the strongest on record, the U.N. weather agency said earlier this year.

(Additional reporting by Matt Siegel; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Paul Tait)

- Reuters


Huge hail, damaging winds lash Sydney after rare tornado warning
Australia's biggest city Sydney was smashed by a tornado-like storm on Wednesday, with hail as big as golf balls and winds gusting at 200 kilometres (124 miles) an hour causing havoc.
Channel NewsAsia 16 Dec 15;

SYDNEY: Australia's biggest city Sydney was smashed by a tornado-like storm on Wednesday, with hail as big as golf balls and winds gusting at 200 kilometres (124 miles) an hour causing havoc.

Two people required treatment -- one for shock and one for a head wound -- in the hardest-hit suburb of Kurnell, an ambulance official said.

One resident of the suburb, where wind gusts of 213 kilometres per hour were recorded, said the storm sounded "like a freight train going through".

"Total destruction," he told Sky News of the aftermath of the tempest, which downed trees and power lines and damaged buildings, including a desalination plant, and flooded roads.

Another man who called in to Sydney talk radio described a scene of extreme damage in Kurnell, images of which showed a truck overturned and building parts flung around.

"My neighbour's roof is gone, the trees are all down in the front yard," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"There's trees down out the front of his house which have landed in my front yard. It's just a mess."

The weather bureau said warnings for destructive winds, large hail stones and heavy rain were in place for central Sydney, its airport and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

"Very destructive winds associated with a possible tornado affected the Sydney coast around Kurnell at 10:30 this morning," the bureau said of the earlier lashing.

"We don't get situations like that without it being a tornado," the bureau's Michael Logan added.

"It is what's called a supercell thunderstorm and they're one of the most dangerous thunderstorms we get."

The bureau said surrounding areas to the north and west of Sydney were in line to be affected as the storm, which comes at the start of the southern hemisphere summer, moves north.

The airport remained open, but delays were expected as ground crews struggled to cope with the weather, a spokeswoman said.

- AFP/jb

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