The Mirror News

Wild storm claims shop windows, fences, trees, power lines

• Pictured outside her destroyed shop 
window last Friday morning is Bev Smallwood who was very grateful to the “friends” and volunteers who chipped in during the storm to help make a 
dangerous situation manageable. You can see another shop window to the right that succumbed to the gale force winds.

SHORT in duration but particularly wild, the storm that swept through the Corner Inlet district last Thursday August 27, 2020 claimed shop windows along Toora’s Stanley Street as well as laneway fence panels, along with trees and power in many places.

Wind gusts reaching almost 160 kilometres an hour were recorded at Wilsons Promontory, with blasts measuring more than 120 kilometres an hour hitting Yanakie at the height of the late-afternoon storm.

What earlier had been a relatively mild and pleasant sunny winter’s day, albeit with a steadily strengthening breeze, swiftly turned into a howling maelstrom of wind-driven hail followed by drumming rain, lightning, and thunder.

Both major and minor district roads were quickly littered with twigs and leaves and in some cases were partially or totally blocked by fallen trees and branches.

South Gippsland Shire Council received more than 40 calls for help, beginning during the storm and then continuing throughout Thursday night, with more calls coming through on Friday morning.

Grip Road at Toora was closed to vehicles for much of Friday, with another three thoroughfares at the western end of the municipality also impassable.

Shire South Area outdoor staff spent hours clearing district roads, armed with chainsaws, loppers, brooms, chippers and trucks.

Toora artist Carol Linton seemed to bare the brunt of the storm at her shed which she used as a studio/gallery. Tin was blown all over town, and she was lucky not to be in there at the time, as she had been in and out all day.

She lost the roof off the building and the sky lights where she lives in the back lane behind her shed. It was a frightening experience she told The Mirror and on Monday morning was waiting for the insurance company to come and access the situation.

A Victoria Police spokesman said sections of the South Gippsland Highway, including between Foster North and Meeniyan, and at Toora, were covered with tree debris, slowing but not completely impeding traffic.

However, no road accidents resulting directly from the storm were reported. 

However, no road accidents resulting directly from the storm were reported. 

Foster State Emergency Service (SES) Unit duty officer Rachael Nicolson said the gusting weather saw an SES crew turn out at 11 am on Thursday to remove a tree that had taken out the power line serving a house in Ameys Track, north of Foster.

“Calls to the SES really started to come in from about 5.30 pm,” she said.

“The volume of calls we were getting was huge, and there were only four members available who formed two crews, so it was a tough one for a while that night!

“Across the state the SES received more than 1700 jobs and our emergency phone lines were quite overwhelmed,” Ms Nicolson said.

“As duty officer here in Foster I was taking calls and triaging jobs, with the South Gippsland Highway a huge priority because quite a few trees had come down there and it being a 100-kilometre speed zone.

“We got calls from right across the district, including Sandy Point, Middle Tarwin, Sandy Point and Toora, as well as around the Foster locality,” she said.

“Residents on the Boolarra South-Mirboo North Road near Limonite were lucky not to be injured when a huge cypress tree fell and clipped their house, damaging the building. A SES crew from Yarram assisted with that call.

“We were also glad of help from the members of the Foster Country Fire Authority (CFA) who took on some of the jobs at Toora,” Ms Nicolson said.

“We really do have an amazing community here in this area, and everyone is so willing to pitch in when help is needed.”

More than a dozen further reports had been made to the Foster SES by Friday morning, and unit members were anticipating others coming in about lesser roads that still had trees and branches across them.

“The reality for the SES is that we go to a job and clear another three on the way, after a storm like that,” Ms Nicolson said.

An AusNet Services spokesman said more than 50,000 households across Victoria woke up on Friday morning without electricity because of lighting and tree damage to power infrastructure.

“We had crews out working all night on Thursday to identify and repair affected lines, and more started at first light on Friday,” the spokesman said.

“We had two helicopters patrolling hundreds of kilometres of lines and reporting where the damage had occurred to ground crews.”

AusNet’s power outage map showed hundreds of properties throughout South Gippsland still without electricity by late Friday afternoon.

The map also estimated that restoring power to some locations, including Toora, Toora North, Welshpool, Hazel Park, Woorarra East, and Wonyip, involving literally dozens of AusNet customers, might occur by 11.30 pm on Friday or by 10 pm on Saturday.

See the AusNet Services power outage map at www.outagetracker.com.au

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