Storm clouds are seen over Melbourne's CBD (file image)
A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for parts of Victoria including greater Melbourne. Image by Erik Anderson/AAP PHOTOS
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Victorians left in the dark after wild thunderstorms

Callum Godde January 2, 2024

More than 40,000 Victorian homes and businesses remain without power after wild thunderstorms swept across the state.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued on Tuesday afternoon for Bendigo, Maryborough, Castlemaine, Kyneton, Ballarat, Bellarine Peninsula and greater Melbourne.

Large hail has been reported around Bendigo, as well as rainfall totals of 20mm in 30 minutes at Eversley, 30mm in 30 minutes at Mount Boninyong and 54mm in 60 minutes at Coldstream.

A wind gust of 104km/h was recorded in Wangaratta, near the Victorian-NSW border, and another of 92km/h at the Eildon Fire Tower.

Thunderstorm cells were tracking southeast on Tuesday evening and could lead to life-threatening flash flooding, the Bureau of Meteorology warned.

A watch and act alert encouraged campers and residents in exposed parts of Echuca, Shepparton, Wangaratta, Bright, Mansfield and Mt Buller to take shelter and move to higher ground.

The bureau earlier cancelled a severe thunderstorm warning for Melbourne, declaring the immediate threat had passed.

About 19,000 power customers across central and western Victoria were still off the grid as of 7pm on Tuesday after the storms brought down trees and damaged the network.

Powercor, which supplies power to 1.2 million Victorian homes and businesses, said a significant amount of lightning had also impacted the grid and its crews were working to fix more than 200 faults.

“Ballarat and surrounding communities are the hardest hit areas, with around 13,000 customers without power,” a Powercor spokesman said in a statement.

“Other areas impacted include Castlemaine, Bendigo, Hamilton, Ararat, Horsham and Maryborough, as well as some of the western suburbs of Melbourne.

“Our crews will continue to work to have power restored throughout the afternoon and evening, but given the volume of faults and the damage sustained, some customers will be without power overnight.”

Close to 20,000 customers with Ausnet, which supplies power to all of the state’s east and southeast as well as much of the north, were also without power as 6pm Tuesday.

“The most significant outages are in Wallan, Beveridge, Euroa, Wollert, Epping, Alexandra, Chirnside Park and Yea,” an AusNet spokeswoman said.

“Our crews are currently working to get the power back on as quickly and safely as possible

As well, more than 2000 power customers to Melbourne’s west and northwest were experiencing outages late on Tuesday.

Lightning forced Melbourne Airport to halt ground operations at various points during the afternoon, prompting widespread delays to flights being loaded and unloaded.

“(This) has caused delays to departures,” a Melbourne Airport spokesman told AAP.

“Reduced visibility has also required air traffic control to increase spacing between flights arriving into Melbourne.

“We anticipate delays will continue into the evening and advise passengers to check with their airline for any changes to flight times.”

Trains along the Craigieburn line from Broadmeadows to Craigieburn have resumed running after an earlier lightning strike affected equipment.

Meteorologist Miriam Bradbury said the risk of severe thunderstorms would persist into Wednesday but would contract into eastern Victoria and southeast NSW.

“As we go towards Thursday, the heavier rainfall is going to move up the NSW coast with the risk of storms continuing,” she said. 

“However, inland areas will see much patchier falls.”