Weather News

Newcastle hit by storm with a thousand strikes (and one hell of a wind gust)

Ben Domensino, Tuesday November 17, 2020 - 13:48 EDT

An intense severe thunderstorm struck Newcastle on Monday night, producing a barrage of lightning and wind gusts that wouldn't be out of place in a category two tropical cyclone.

After a warm late-spring day, thunderstorms started to move through the Hunter Valley on Monday afternoon. By nightfall, the storms were rapidly gaining strength and heading towards the coast.

Image: Lightning lit up the night sky in Newcastly on Monday. Source: @kathwphoto / Instagram

The evening's most intense thunderstorm reached Cessnock around 7pm AEDT, before rolling directly over Newcastle and heading out to the Tasman Sea shortly after 8pm.

This intense thunderstorm produced more than 28,000 lightning strikes within a 50 km radius of Newcastle. Of these strikes, around 1,100 reached the ground and the rest remained inside the clouds.

Image: The total number and location of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes detected within a 50 km radius of Newcastle on Monday night.

The severe storm also caused heavy rain and powerful winds in and around Newcastle.

Josie Patterson, a Newcastle local living near the university, spent Tuesday morning surveying the damage on her block and drying out her house.

"The heaviest part only lasted five or 10 minutes but you could see tree branches swaying like crazy," she told Weatherzone.

"We had a leak through a window and under the front door. Fortunately the kids had just gone to bed and slept through it."

But while the storm was brief, it caused significant damage in the area.

"In the morning we could see the damage. Tree branches down all over the university and on Newcastle Road. It left quite a mess behind," she said.

Image: Branches brought down at Newcastle University by Monday night's thunderstrom. Source: Josie Patterson

The strongest wind gust of the night was a whopping 146km/h at Nobbys Head Signal Station shortly after 8pm. This was the strongest gust ever recorded at the site during spring, with data going back to 1960.

This was an impressive wind gust for this time of year because Newcastle's strongest winds typically occur in the cooler months, from East Coast Lows.

The strongest gust on record at Nobbys Head was 175km/h during the infamous 'Sygna' East Coast Low on May 26, 1974.

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