Wild storms have caused the biggest blackout in South Australia since the entire state went dark in 2016, as flash flooding caused havoc in parts of New South Wales and Victoria.
More than 423,000 lightning strikes were recorded in SA on Sunday. Heavy winds downed trees and SA Power Networks received more than 500 reports of fallen wires.
About 163,000 homes and businesses lost power as SA was cut off from the nation’s electricity grid after the interconnector with Victoria went down. Some will not be reconnected until Wednesday.
A SAPN spokesperson, Paul Roberts, said in one sense the weekend’s outages were worse than the 2016 event because it would take “a lot longer” to fix as the network had to be rebuilt, not just reconnected.
“The statewide blackout was essentially reorganising supply in the network … building us back up from zero supply,” he told ABC radio on Monday morning. “This is actually about rebuilding the network.”
NSW towns inundated
People stranded in roof-high floodwaters in an inundated NSW town have been rescued after storms hit the central west, bringing widespread rain that’s led to flash flooding as more people are told to evacuate from rising waters that have left towns isolated.
The force of the floodwaters smashed shop windows and knocked out the back wall of a local supermarket in the central-western town of Molong, a statement from NSW Fire and Rescue said on Monday.
Fire and Rescue crews in Molong rushed to action around midnight, helping the State Emergency Service and other agencies door-knocking threatened homes and evacuating people.
A makeshift landing strip was established, with flashing lights on the oval of the Molong Central School, to guide an ADF helicopter to help rescue people trapped in floodwater and conduct medical retrievals.
Fire crews also rescued two people and their dog from knee-deep water inside a house and another couple from the top floor of a motel.
The firefighters and a police officer waded through chest-high water to reach another woman stranded in her inundated home.
At least two large shipping containers were carried through the centre of the historic town by floodwaters and are blocking the Mitchell Highway.
Roadblocks have been established to prevent heavy vehicles passing through the floodwaters and causing further damage and an evacuation centre has been opened at the RSL club.
Firefighters say floodwaters are receding and they have begun clearing a large amount of mud and debris from Molong’s streets.
Agencies warned at the weekend that storms cells tracking across eastern Australia were likely to bring further stress to many already inundated regional areas in NSW and Victoria.
A weather system would bring renewed thunderstorms, heavy showers and likely river rises to inland NSW on Monday, which was a concern to the NSW SES, assistant commissioner, Nicole Hogan, said.
“We understand this is the last thing you want to hear, with flooding affecting multiple communities in inland NSW,” she said.
A cold front across NSW on Sunday continued into Monday, bringing storms and adverse weather. Snow is expected in the Alps and central tablelands.
Flooding continues across western and southern NSW, in towns including Collarenebri, Walgett, Bourke, Condobolin, Hay and Albury.
To the east, some 61mm of rain fell on the northern rivers town of Grafton in just one hour on Saturday night, leading to flash flooding and five requests for SES help.
Flash flooding hits Victoria again
Flash flooding has hit Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where residents were warned to stay indoors during a sudden early morning downpour.
A watch and act alert was issued for Mount Martha, Mornington, Hastings and Dromana on Monday morning as heavy rainfall caused localised flash flooding and building damage.
Residents were told to stay inside and away from floodwaters as the severe thunderstorm hit.
Victoria SES chief officer Tim Wiebusch said volunteers responded to more than 550 calls for help, of which 318 were for flooding incidents, 104 for fallen trees and 44 for building damage.
He said Mount Martha and Mornington were hit with 40-50mm of rain over the space of a few hours and about 38 inland water rescues were made.
“A range of the rescues this morning have been people attempting to drive through flash flood waters but also (people) seeing water levels rise around their houses very, very quickly,” he told ABC TV.
Wiebusch said there had also been significant downpours in the state’s northeast overnight, including 60 to 70mm of rainfall in some areas.
There was major flooding at the Murray River in Albury-Wodonga and that was expected to flow downstream to Yarrawonga and Tocumwal as more rain fell.
Wiebusch said flash flooding was expected to turn into major riverine flooding in the coming days as already saturated catchments felt the impact of the extra water.