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Sydney lashed by severe thunderstorms, power outages, flooding

By Bellinda Kontominas and Nick Sas, Saturday February 9, 2019 - 15:33 EDT
ABC image
Part of the roof ripped off Parramatta North Public School - ABC

Severe thunderstorms brought lightning and heavy rainfall to Sydney last night, causing major damage to buildings and turning roads into rivers.

Almost 50 millimetres fell in some suburbs during a 30-minute deluge — and more heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast later today.

However the Bureau of Meteorology this afternoon reduced the threat of thunderstorms for Sydney to a "medium chance".

More than 47mm fell in 30 minutes at Guildford in Sydney's west last night, causing severe flash flooding while Auburn was drenched by 41mm and Parramatta by 38mm.

In Baulkham Hills, in Sydney's north-west, 34mm fell in 30 minutes.

About 45,000 homes across Sydney lost power at the height of the storm, with about 5000 people still without power on Saturday morning, mainly in the Parramatta region and Hills district.

Repair crews have been slowly reconnecting homes to the grid as they fix the damaged power infrastructure across the city.

At Parramatta North Public School the strong winds ripped the roof of the school.

It landed on power lines and the road nearby. Emergency services were attempting to fix the damage this morning.

Endeavour Energy said this morning nearly 300 electrical hazards still needed repairs, with trees and large branches across powerlines in many locations.

A spokesman said extra crews had been called in to repair the damage.

Annual short film festival Tropfest is relocating its event this afternoon, after severe storms damaged the stage and screen last night.

Greg Murphy, the State Emergency Service operations controller, said they had received more than 900 calls for help so far — mainly from the Parramatta and Cumberland Plains areas — with "more coming in".

"The calls were mostly for trees down, roof damage and from that we get flooding to houses, blocked drains causing water to back up," he said.

"It is a full gamut of jobs, including nine people driving into water [who had to be rescued] after misjudging the depth, and it is not a good thing."

Local resident Bilial, who did not want his surname used, managed to escape his car through the window as it was dragged underwater in Merrylands.

"I was on the way to work, I called my boss and told him 'it's raining a bit' and he said work's still on, it's just a passing cloud," he told the ABC.

"Next thing you know [my] car went upright in the water."

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jake Phillips said heavy rainfall over 35mm in half an hour was usually seen once or twice each Sydney summer.

But individual suburbs expected that kind of rainfall once every ten years.

"Some of those places that had 40-plus millimetres of rainfall tonight — that's starting to get you into some less common territory."

Further thunderstorms and strong winds are forecast for Saturday afternoon and into the evening.

Sydney Airport was reporting delays of up to one hour at its domestic terminal, however services have returned to normal this morning.

The rain hit as many commuters were travelling home.

Parramatta Road was closed in both directions at Granville due to flooding in Mort Street, the Transport Management Centre said.

Flooding also closed Bexley Road at Bexley North, near Slade Road, while Roseville Bridge went underwater.

Fallen trees caused roads to be closed in Cherrybrook and Galston Gorge.

As the severe thunderstorms rolled across the city, the SES had advised people to move their cars under cover and away, secure loose items around houses, yards or balconies and stay at least 8 metres from fallen power lines.


© ABC 2019

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