A man watches a river swollen by floodwaters.
The wild weather that's been hitting eastern Australia will continue in NSW in the next 24 hours. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS
  • weather

Storms continue after sparking power outages, rescues

January 3, 2024

Parts of eastern Australia are still copping a battering from wild weather as authorities work to restore power for thousands of homes following a man’s lucky escape from raging floodwaters.

More thunderstorms were passing through Victoria late Wednesday, prompting warnings of heavy rainfall in the state’s central, northeast and Gippsland regions.

Areas in the firing line include Castlemaine, Kyneton, Daylesford, Bright, Falls Creek, Mt Hotham and Omeo.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the storms were likely to produce heavy rainfall and could lead to flash flooding.

Lightning stopped flights at Melbourne’s airport on Tuesday afternoon as storms left about 50,000 homes and businesses across the state without power.

Home damaged by a fallen tree on the Gold Coast.
 Homes have been damaged by heavy rain and winds that have uprooted trees. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS 

One of the state’s major energy providers, Powercor, said there were more than 90,000 lightning strikes over 24 hours and it was working to reconnect power to more than 2400 customers as of Wednesday afternoon.

Powercor conceded some customers would likely remain without power overnight, though fewer than 1000 homes and businesses were still experiencing outages around 7pm.

There were 1100 customers with AusNet, which supplies power to all Victoria’s east, southeast and much of the north, also without power on Wednesday evening.

Police are continuing to urge people not to drive into floodwaters after a man and his dog were swept away in fast-moving water at Wedderburn in the state’s north.

The 60-year-old man had driven into floodwaters on Tuesday and was rescued by emergency services.

He was taken to hospital for observation and escaped injury but police said the incident was an extremely close call.

“He (was) up to his chin in water and sitting on the driver’s door of his car on the windowsill before he got up onto the roof,” Sergeant Ben Huisman told reporters.

“(Locals were) trying to calm him down because he was quite panicked.”

The man was cold and scared as good Samaritans helped Sgt Huisman drag him out of the water.

Victoria’s SES responded to more than 920 calls for help between 6am on Tuesday and 10am on Wednesday.

But the worst of the wild weather appears to have moved on in Queensland, where authorities are working on recovery plans.

Australian Defence Force troops are being deployed across the state to help with the recovery effort while authorities try to restore power to about 8000 homes. 

Queensland's southeast faces the prospect of more thunderstorms.
 The emergency seems to be over in Queensland’s southeast, for now. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS 

They hope to get power restored by Friday but Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Ben Marcus said it was more likely to be completed at the weekend.

“We’re not talking one or two power poles, we’re talking hundreds and hundreds,” he said.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said compounding weather events meant the state needed more resources.

“But when we had that heavy rainfall hit as well, to compound the situation, that’s when the defence force was really needed,” he said.

Hundreds of flood-damaged Queensland roads remain closed and continuing rain means an increased potential for landslides and fallen debris.

Dozens of people have been rescued from flood waters, with the SES responding to more than 5000 calls for help since Christmas Day.

Ten homes in the Sunshine State’s southeast have been destroyed by storms, with 386 copping minor and 145 moderate damage.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt.
 Murray Watt said Queensland suffered compounding weather events and needed resources. Image by Jason O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS 

Storms and flooding in northern NSW have also kept emergency services working overtime.

Two people were struck by lightning after severe thunderstorms lashed the Blue Mountains near the Jamison Valley and Katoomba on Wednesday afternoon.

Some centres received more than a month’s worth of rain in the 48 hours to Tuesday evening, leading to dozens of rescues by local SES crews.

The wild weather is set to continue into Thursday across large parts of southeast and southern NSW, including the Blue Mountains, the bureau said.

Heavy rain, large hail and damaging wind are predicted.