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High impact weather lashes Victoria, igniting fires and leaving 500,000 without power

Ben Domensino, Tuesday February 13, 2024 - 22:20 AEDT

Tuesday was a dangerous and damaging day of weather in Victoria as powerful winds, severe thunderstorms, catastrophic fire danger and mass power outages impacted the state.

The burst of ferocious summer weather was caused by a strong cold front and pre-frontal trough passing over the state, which caused a cold air mass from the Southern Ocean to clash with a much warmer air mass sitting over Australia’s southeast.

Image: A squall line around 1,500 km in length causes lightning across parts of four states on Tuesday afternoon.

This volatile weather pattern caused powerful winds and severe thunderstorms, which produced:

A wind gust of 130 km/h at Mount Gellibrand shortly before midday, which is equivalent to a category two tropical cyclone

Wind gusts of 126 km/h at Yarram Airport, 122 km/h at Avalon Airport, 119 km/h at Eildon Fire Tower, 117 km/h at Swan Hill, 115 km/h at Fawkner Beacon and102 km/h at Melbourne Airport

543,762 lightning strikes within a 600 km radius of Melbourne between 9am and 9pm AEDT on Tuesday

Dry lightning that ignited new fires amid Extreme to Catastrophic fire danger ratings

A massive squall line, which resulted in thunderstorms stretching roughly 1,500 km across parts of Vic, NSW, SA and Tas

Large hailstones falling from fast-moving severe storms

Tuesday’s powerful winds caused six transmission towers to collapse near Anakie, to the north of Geelong, resulting in power outages to more than 500,000 customers. According to Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio, this has been one of the largest outage events in the state’s history.

Images: Damaged transmission towers near Anakie, Vic on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. Source: AAP

Some of the lightning caused by Tuesday’s thunderstorms occurred with little to no rainfall, allowing these cloud-to-ground lightning strikes to ignite new fires. This was likely to be the ignition source for some of the fires that started and got out of control in the state’s west on Tuesday.

Image: Images captured by the Himawari-9 satellite showing smoke from two large fires in western Victoria on Tuesday afternoon.

As of 10pm AEDT on Tuesday, emergency warnings were still in place for several bushfires in western Vic, while a severe storm warning was also in place for the squall line passing over southern NSW and the ACT.

Image: Chelsea Beach, Vic on Tuesday afternoon. Source: Jennifer Erlandsen / Facebook

You can find the latest information on Victorian fires on the Vic Emergency website and severe thunderstorm warnings can be found here.

- Weatherzone

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