Summary of Significant Severe Thunderstorm Events in NSW - 1990/2000


2000

20/21 February 2000
Western NSW

Thunderstorms embedded in a middle-level rain band, enhanced heavy rain already falling in western parts of NSW. The highest 24 hour falls to 9am (21st) included 229mm at Broken Hill (Koralta), a grazing property 80km NE of Broken Hill. The nearby station of Broken Hill (Waterbag) recorded 214.6mm, by far the wettest day recorded in 61 years. At Broken Hill (Langawirra) the 195mm was the wettest day in 114 years of record. Many homes in Broken Hill were flooded and many rural families isolated.

1 January 2000
Armidale area

Thunderstorms developed in northern NSW during the mid to late afternoon along an inland trough. Armidale was lashed by golf ball size hail around 5.30pm damaging 60 homes and 40 cars. Orchards and trees stripped and roof tiles, skylights and windows broken. The main highway was closed after hail piled up 15cm deep with hail still on the ground at noon the following day.


1999

24 October 1999 - MID-NORTH COAST AND NORTHERN RIVERS

Severe thunderstorms affected the Mid-North Coast and Northern Rivers weather districts of NSW during the late morning and afternoon. Large hail up to 6.5cm was reported during this event. The storms occurred on the northern flank a small low pressure system that formed near Sydney and subsequently moved southwards. Homes were damaged, 23 yachts were dismasted and lightning cut power across parts of Sydney. Strong winds brought down trees in several suburbs. Part of a house in Beecroft was severely damaged when a large tree fell across it. The wettest part of the state was the Illawarra escarpment where Wattamolla (Tamol) recorded 340mm over 2 days. The total damage bill was $45 million.

22 September 1999
Sydney

Storms formed in moist, unstable air ahead of a cold front. Three waves of storms affected parts of Sydney during the evening. These storms produced hail up to 4cm in diameter as well as some damaging wind gusts. The worst affected areas were the western suburbs, causing blackouts, minor flooding and disruptions to flights at Sydney Airport. Power was cut to about 2000 homes around Campbelltown at 5pm. Hailstones blanketed streets around the city including Parramatta and Lane Cove, where Epping Rd suffered minor flooding. Residents reported damaging hailstones as big as "golf balls" at Willoughby and marble-size hailstones at Campbelltown.

14 April 1999
Giant hail in Sydney devastates Eastern Suburbs

An intense, long-lived thunderstorm moved over Sydney's eastern and city suburbs during the evening hours producing hail measured at 9cm diameter, although larger hail would certainly have fallen in the more severely-damaged areas. This hailstorm was of a magnitude seldom seen in Australia, or the world. It stands as Australia's most costly natural disaster (in dollar terms) to date, with total insurance claims of $1.7 billion dollars. Over 20,000 properties and 40,000 vehicles were damaged in the storm. (more details including radar loop )

28 January 1999
Heavy rain and flash flooding NSW South Coast and Illawarra

Very slow moving thunderstorms formed in moist conditions. An approaching upper trough further enhanced the meteorological setting. The first reports of flash flooding came at approximately 12:35pm with 6 homes underwater in the St Georges Basin area near Jervis Bay. The worst affected area seems to have been the area between Batemans Bay and Narooma with some very heavy rainfall reported. Storms were also evident over parts of the Central Tablelands and the Sydney Metropolitan area. The SES attended 60 requests for assistance during the event.

Some rainfall totals from Bureau of Meteorology stations include:

  • Narooma: 102mm 9am-3pm Thursday, 242mm in 24 hours to 9am Friday
  • Batemans Bay: 30mm 9am-3pm Thursday, 221mm in 24 hours to 9am Friday
  • Moruya: 88m 9am-3pm Thursday, 206mm in 24 hours to 9am Friday
  • Montague Island: 98mm 9am-3pm Thursday, 196mm in 24 hours to 9am Friday

Some other rainfall readings include:

  • Dalmeny [just north of Narooma]: - 300mm 1:30pm-5:30pm
  • Bodalla: 182.6mm 9am-4:30pm
  • Potato Point [just north of Narooma]: 300mm 8am-6pm Thursday, 390mm in 24 hours to 7am Friday.

24 January 1999
Heavy rain and flash flooding in Sydney

Severe thunderstorms developed over the Greater Sydney area during early Sunday morning. A surface trough in the moist easterlies combined with an upper level low pressure system provided the necessary conditions for storm development. Very heavy rain was reported over eastern parts of the Metropolitan area between approximately 7:30 am and 10:00am. The worst affected area was the Randwick local council area. Another storm produced torrential rainfall over some northern suburbs with properties in Berowra damaged and the main northern highway cut at one stage. The State Emergency Service responded to more than 200 request for assistance associated with this event.

Some rainfall totals included:

  • Berowra Heights 141mm 24 hours to 9am Sunday
  • Randwick 74mm in 24 hours
  • Sydney Airport 60mm (55mm between 7am and 9am)
  • Little Bay 117mm between 7am and 10am (88mm between 8:00 and 9:00am)

1998

18 December 1998
Severe Thunderstorms in Northern NSW

Severe thunderstorms affected the Mid-North Coast and Northern Rivers weather districts of NSW during the afternoon of 18 December 1998. The worst damage occurred in Murwillumbah, Ballina, Banora Point and Yamba areas. The maximum recorded wind gust during the event was 122 km/h at Evans Head AWS. Maximum hail sizes reported so far are cricket ball, golf ball, apple and mandarin size. Hail at Evans Head was measured at 5.25cm. Flash flooding and much wind damage has been reported by Storm Spotters in the area.

The storms formed over the ranges of NE NSW in a convergent zone ahead of a cold front advancing northwards on the NSW coast. The low-levels of the atmosphere were very moist and unstable with further destabilisation provided by an approaching upper level trough and jet streak. Several Severe storms occurred in this environment. The damage in Murwillumbah was produced by a separate storm to that which damaged the coastal strip from Yamba to Evans Head, Ballina and Byron Bay (radar loop).

More than 250 State Emergency Service volunteers worked on the clean-up operations in the Tweed and Clarence Valleys on Saturday. In all there were 354 requests for assistance. The majority of SES assistance was for roofing damage. In the Maclean Shire, 6 houses were unroofed whilst at Murwillumbah, three houses lost their entire roofs and up to 100 others had roof damage. Numerous trees were uprooted and fell across roads and houses. Power had been cut to many parts of the north coast with up to 2000 homes affected. The Murwillumbah industrial area was badly damaged. At Murwillumbah airport, a light plane was destroyed and three more were damaged. Alstonville police station also suffered serious damage from a fallen tree limb. No injuries were reported.

13th December 1998
Severe Thunderstorms in the Wagga Wagga area

Thunderstorms developed in southwest NSW mid to late afternoon along an inland trough. They were first reported from the Wagga Wagga Observing Office at 5:00pm with the strongest winds and heaviest rain reported between 5:30 and 6:30 pm. Damage was mainly wind related with many trees and power poles down although some local flooding was reported due to heavy rain. At the height of the storm, a light plane broke free of its mooring at Wagga Wagga airport and was blown 100m across the ground. Large areas of Wagga Wagga were without power during the night.

The maximum wind gust reported at Wagga Wagga Airport Automatic Weather Station (AWS) was 106 km/h. Rainfall of 27.4 mm was reported from the Bureau official rain gauge, however 68mm was recorded by one resident in the Tatton area.

17 August 1998
Heavy Rain and Flooding in Wollongong

A low pressure trough along the central and southern NSW coast provided favourable conditions for heavy rainfall during Monday 17 August 1998. The heaviest falls occurred during the period from about 6:00pm to 9:00pm when an area of thunderstorms embedded in the rain remained stationary over the Wollongong area.

All major roads and train lines to Wollongong were cut last night due to the rain with mudslides reported on some roads including Bulli Pass. A person drowned when trying to drive across a flooded creek at Bellambi. In north Wollongong, 50 houses were flooded and some seaside houses were reported dislodged from their foundations.

Some rainfall totals for 24 hours to 09:00am on 18 August were:

  • Mt Ousley: 445mm
  • Bulli Pass: 410mm
  • Keiraville: 337mm
  • Figtree: 313mm
  • Wollongong: 316mm

In Sydney, beach side suburbs were severely eroded after the battering from storms, heavy swell and rain. At North Cronulla, it was the worst erosion since massive east coast storms in May, 1974. A sea wall of concrete blocks partially sunk after the storms, with walking paths also closed. The State Government committed more than $2M to repair the storms' attack on the seawall at Dee Why Beach, on the northern beaches. Flooding caused 14 metropolitan roads to be blocked, while power was lost to thousands of homes as driving rain & 92km/h wind gusts brought down trees & power lines.

23 June 1998
East Coast Low off NSW coast

Hunter Valley and Northern Tablelands - damage to houses and infrastructure in the Hunter exceeded $10 million following intense storms with snow and gale-force winds. A 40 ha State Forest at Gloucester in the Barrington Tops was destroyed by gale force winds. Wind gusts reached 152 km/h at Nobbys Head (Newcastle), the highest wind gust ever recorded in June. At Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle, and Port Stephens, boats were blown from their moorings and washed ashore. Heavy snowfalls blocked roads in the Barrington Tops near Gloucester. Severe weather conditions brought power blackouts for 7,000 homes from Lake Macquarie to Singleton in the Upper Hunter for up to 2 days. Some schools did not hold classes because they were without lights or heating.

9-10 April 1998
Heavy rain causes flash flooding in Sydney

Heavy rain and thunderstorms occurred over the Sydney Metropolitan area late Thursday 9 April and into Friday 10 April. Much damage was reported primarily due to flash flooding. Tragically, a young boy drowned after he was swept away in a swollen creek on Friday afternoon. Hundreds of SES workers and volunteers battled to protect homes around the Narrabeen Lake area, on the northern beaches, as levels rose to a 15-year high. Three houses were evacuated at the beach suburb that were threatened by a torrent of stormwater coming over a cliff at their rear. About 5,000 homes lost power after the heavy rains were concentrated on the coast between the Hunter & Illawarra districts. The total damage bill was $10 million.

The event was caused by an upper level system interacting with warm, moist onshore flow lifted by a trough off the coast. Some rainfall totals in the 48 hour period 9am Thursday to 9am Saturday include:

  • Belrose 293mm,
  • Frenchs Forest 260mm,
  • Observatory Hill 239mm,
  • Avalon 209mm,
  • Pymble 202mm,
  • Gordon 200mm

7 February 1998
Wind damage over Central and Southern NSW

A line of severe thunderstorms moved across Central and Southern NSW. The storms were first evident in the west of the State, translating towards the east during the afternoon and evening. The Riverina and South West Slopes districts were affected most with damage reported from Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Holbrook, Urana, Culcairn and Lockhart. Some damage was also reported from Broken Hill in the Lower Western, Baradine (North West Plains) and Eugowa, Molong and Oberon (Central Tablelands). At Wagga Wagga, the SES has had over 100 requests for assistance, mostly for fallen trees across power lines and roads although five roofs were also damaged. An infant died after being struck by a falling tree branch at Darlington Point, south of Griffith in the Riverina district.

Some maximum wind gusts were:

  • Broken Hill 1:22pm 44kt (81 km/h)
  • Condobolin 5:49pm 48kt (89 km/h)
  • Cobar Airport 6:16pm 49kt (91 km/h)
  • Forbes 7:16pm 47kt (87 km/h)
  • Wagga Wagga 7:57pm 64kt (119 km/h)
  • Thredbo 9:32pm 72kt (133 km/h)

5 February 1998
Wind damage over Central and Northern NSW

A line of thunderstorms formed on a trough of low pressure in inland New South Wales during the afternoon with a total of 16 000 lightning strikes. Over 40 000 homes lost power in Sydney. There were several reports of severe wind gusts during the afternoon, the highest were: 106 km/hr at Dubbo at 3:01pm, 104 km/hr at Coonamble at 2:53pm, 83 km/hr at Orange at 3:58pm and 76 km/hr at Armidale at 5:47pm. Hail the size of marbles and one cent coins was reported by storm spotters. In Armidale, a storm spotter reported a rainfall rate of 44mm in one hour. The total damage bill was $12 million.

9 January 1998
Broken Hill Flash Flooding

A severe thunderstorm passed over the Western NSW township of Broken Hill early in the afternoon producing heavy rain and localised flash flooding for the 2nd time in 3 days. More than a quarter of Broken Hill's annual rainfall of 255mm was dumped on the far western city in 45 minutes. About 50 homes, shops & the fire station were flooded, with the SES helping to cover rain-damaged roofs with tarpaulins & sandbag houses in low-lying areas.

One utility was caught in the rising waters and was destroyed, while 4 others were damaged. The highways to Adelaide and Sydney were cut, stranding trucks, tourist coaches & cars, causing lengthy delays. The NSW Government approved $2 million in disaster relief to repair storm-damaged roads in the Broken Hill district. The Automatic Weather Station at Broken Hill Aerodrome reported 40.4 mm in 42 minutes between 11:52am and 12:34pm (EDST). The total rainfall up until 3:00pm that afternoon at the CBD site (Patton Street) was 71mm. Lower parts of Broken Hill were inundated by floodwaters nearly 1 metre of water and the CBD inundated by nearly half a metre of water.

5 January 1998
Nyngan Storm

A severe thunderstorm with golf ball size hail and 110 km/hr winds struck the western NSW town of Nyngan about 3:15 pm causing extensive damage to property. According to reports from the State Emergency Service (SES), 4 houses were completely destroyed, 18 wholly unroofed and 77 sustained significant roof damage. Three schools were damaged, one severely, with damage also to business houses and public buildings. Trees and roofing material falling onto power lines caused blackouts. The water supply to the town was also affected for a time with pumps being out of action. 1 person was hospitalised, although their injuries were not believed to have been serious. Damage to council infrastructure, including electricity, water and sewerage mains was estimated at over $1 million. The total damage bill was $12 million.


1996

11 December 1996
Severe hailstorm devastates Singleton

A violent thunderstorm with 7cm hailstones as large as cricket balls smashed thousands of windows and over 1,000 building roofs at Singleton (Upper Hunter Valley). Vineyards were destroyed with thick old-growth vines sliced in half. Tiles were reduced to rubble and metal sheeting was punctured or distorted. Heavy rain then flooded homes through ceilings. Singleton District Hospital had hailstones smashing through the roof into wards (at a cost of over $2 million alone). The town was declared a natural disaster area with severe damage occurring to over 650 houses (some destroyed) and about the same number receiving significant damage. Shops, schools, churches, nursing homes, the hospital and approximately 2,000 vehicles were seriously damaged (over 50 cars were written off). Some building roofs were torn off by very high winds. One house near Singleton (right below the point where the main storm and a second storm collided) was torn completely from its foundations, lifted at least 3 metres into the air and somersaulted for nearly 200 metres as it started to break up before smashing against a tree. Two of its occupants were thrown through glass doors, one came to rest in grass, only slightly injured, and the other landed against a fence breaking both legs. The rest of the family (three young children) managed to survive and struggled from the rubble with only minor injuries. Severe damage was caused to nearby crops. It was estimated that in order to create hailstones so large, updraft winds at the centre of the storm would have been about 200 km/h. At ground level winds may have reached 160 km/h. The total damage bill was a massive $50 million.

17 November 1996
Severe thunderstorms in New England and Hunter

A series of severe storms swept through these regions unroofing about 100 houses. Hail and wind damage caused damage to many other homes and buildings. Winds up to 111 km/h felled large trees which blocked roads and brought down power lines, causing blackouts. A man was crushed in his car by a tree and a family had a narrow escape in a similar accident (both near Tea Gardens). Worst affected towns included Tamworth (extensive hail damage to cars and homes causing $10 million insured damage alone), Werris Creek (over 30 houses damaged and a large truck blown over), Coonabarabran and Baradine (20 houses unroofed and other damage to homes, cars, shops and factories) Dungog, Scone and Stroud (serious building damage and power losses) and Forster on the coast. The SES received 250 calls for help in the Lower Hunter region alone.

29 September 1996
Severe thunderstorm caused record high damage bill at Armidale

Storms approached Armidale from the west-south-west, with an intense hail band 2 kilometres wide and extended for 15 kilometres. It generated 156 km/h wind gusts and up to 8cm diameter hailstones damaging 5,000 homes and buildings and 4,000 motor vehicles. Commercial and heritage property losses were also extensive. Total cost of damage was $104 million, probably the highest damage bill from a severe storm in rural NSW.

The hail dump in Armidale was most intense between the airport and South Hill. Hail hitting roofs in the city was heard up to 5 kilometres away. Traffic was disrupted on the southern end of the city's bypass with an ice layer cover between 10-20cm deep. The highest rainfall recorded was 53mm at Armidale Airport. The hospital, nursing home, university, high school, police station and court house were extensively damaged. Several injuries resulted from flying glass and debris. Over $8 million insurance was paid for crop damage but a much larger value was uninsured. The hail eased slightly as the storm left the south ridge and began to cross the valley of Dumaresq Creek. 

Many other NSW towns recorded giant hail on this day with up to 6cm hail at Moree (NW Plains), Macksville (Mid North Coast) and Hinton (Hunter). The automatic weather station at Mudgee airport (Central Tablelands) recorded wind gusts of 148 km/hr at 10.30am.


1995

30 November 1995
Severe storms in Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley and Mid-North Coast has very high winds with thunderstorms. Greatest damage in Maitland, Metford, Thornton and Taree. Over 120 buildings unroofed or seriously damaged. Total damage bill was $10 million.

16 April 1995
Tornado at Merimbula, South Coast

During Easter 1995 at Merimbula and Pambula, a tornado with winds estimated at over 180 km/h cut a 100m wide swathe of damage for 10 km including sections of forest. It damaged a total of about 200 homes, other buildings, cars and caravans. Of the 106 homes damaged, 12 were completely destroyed and 15 sustained severe damage. Ten motels were unroofed or partly damaged, many trees uprooted, and power lines downed causing black-outs. A total of 34 people were injured by flying glass and debris mainly at the bowling club which was also seriously damaged. Large hail up to 4cm size was reported at Kangaloon on the Illawarra.


1994

20 November 1994
Severe thunderstorms in Sydney
and NSW

A severe thunderstorm moved across the Blue Mountains, western Sydney and the northern suburbs and beaches causing severe damage. The lower north shore suburbs of Sydney were hardest hit with high winds, torrential rain and a tornado at Chatswood, along with 3cm hail. Wind gusts reached 133 km/hr at Fort Denison. Trees were uprooted and houses unroofed with some houses collapsing. Many vehicles were damaged by falling trees and building debris. A man was blown from his garage roof and taken to hospital with head injuries and a broken arm. At Glebe, a boy received an electric shock from downed power lines. Thousands of homes suffered power outages. Two women were drowned when their sailing skiff capsized in violent winds on Sydney Harbour near Taronga Park Zoo. While not as severe, damage was also caused in western Sydney, including 20,000 homes blacked out in the areas of Cranbrook, Kellyville, Kenthurst and Carlingford. Rail lines were cut between Blacktown and Richmond and Carlingford and Clyde.

In rural NSW strong winds from a microburst reached an estimated 139 km/hr at Narromine (Central West Plains) causing extensive damage to property. Dubbo (Central West Slopes) recorded microburst winds of 113 km/hr causing damage to 60 houses and bringing down trees and power lines. Large hail up to 6cm size reported from Forbes (Central West Slopes).


1993

20 November 1993
Tornado at Tucabia, North Coast

A tornado (up to F2) with a 200 metre base, golf ball sized hail and extreme winds totally destroyed 8 houses and severely damaged 45 other houses (most unroofed). Lasted about 20 minutes. Every building (about 150) in the town received some damage. Widespread damage to crops and large trees, 2 people injured and numerous livestock killed or injured. Estimated $1 million damage. Hail and floods also occurred in the nearby northern tablelands. 


1992

16 and 18 December 1992
Severe thunderstorms, flooding at Broken Hill

Storms in the far west of NSW produced around 100mm of rain in one day at isolated locations around Broken Hill. The SES evacuated residents of 4 houses in the city which were hit by a 1 metre wall of water. About 82 homes and businesses were flooded. Most of the city was sandbagged as successive heavy showers exacerbated flood levels. Several people stranded by the floods were rescued, including a young boy, when floodwaters washed him off his bike and he was pushed 500 metres along a gutter. The roads and rail network became impassable. Rail freight was halted when floodwaters washed away track ballasts at Kinalung, 20km east of Broken Hill. The Indian Pacific Express, traveling from Perth to Sydney, returned to Adelaide with passengers having to fly the final leg. Flood warnings were issued for the Bogan and Macquarie Rivers as river levels rose rapidly. The highest rainfall total over the 3 days of storms was 164mm at Kinalung, east of Broken Hill. The total for the month was 218mm, the highest monthly rainfall at Kinalung for any month since records commenced in 1937.

12 February 1992
Severe thunderstorm in Western Sydney

Large hail up to 7.5 cm, almost orange sized, occurred in western suburbs, mainly Girraween and Toongabbie, where there was major damage. It resulting in huge insurance payouts for buildings and vehicles with a total damage bill of $118 million. About 3,000 homes and 7,000 vehicles were damaged.  

The State was ravaged by a series of severe storms (including flash floods and damaging hail). Wind and rain damage to homes and other buildings occurred right along the coast including Sydney and Newcastle.


1991

21 January 1991
Severe thunderstorm devastates Turramurra, Sydney

A severe thunderstorm caused extensive damage to parts of NW Sydney with a pattern suggesting it may have been caused by a tornado or at least a severe 'downburst' in the Turramurra area. One person was killed and about 100 injured, of which 30 were serious.

Ku-ring-gai Council alone reported that wind, large hail (up to cricket ball size at Duffy's Forest and Barrenjoey) and falling trees damaged over 10,000 houses, with over 100 completely unroofed and 20 totally destroyed. At least 1,000 other buildings incurred damage and many businesses suffered extensive damage. About 140 kms of power lines and three steel towers were brought down. (Clean up and restoration of essential services took weeks).

Estimated wind strengths (based on damage) of 118 km/h to 230 km/h stripped many suburbs and forested areas bare of leaves and limbs or destroyed whole trees (at least 50,000 significant trees were felled or suffered long-term damage).

Intense rainfall was recorded in many suburbs (highest readings at Fox Valley, followed by Castle Hill) causing damaging flash floods. Total damage bill was $226 million.

For more information, see report.


1990

18 March 1990
Severe storm Western Sydney 4th costliest on record for Australia

This severe hailstorm produced 8cm hailstones as large as oranges (largest reported at the south western suburbs of Liverpool, Bass Hill and Auburn). The thunderstorm produced a swathe of hailstones from Camden, south-west of Sydney, to Narrabeen Beach, on Sydney's northern region. There was severe damage to about 14,000 homes and businesses, numerous aircraft, about 9,000 vehicles and hundreds of trees. Nine kilometres of power lines were brought down. Strong winds also tore roofs from houses and broke trees, while flash-flooding damaged more buildings and closed roads. Winds reached 109 km/h at Bankstown. Total damage bill was $384 million which makes it the 4th costliest natural disaster in Australia after Sydney Hailstorm April 1999, the Newcastle earthquake in 1989 and Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

For more information, see report.


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