27 July 2020

Damaging winds lash Canberra, fell trees and cause power outages

| Michael Weaver
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Emergency service woerkers

Emergency services responded to more than 60 calls for help today. Photo: Supplied, ESA

The ACT State Emergency Service (SES), ACT Fire and Rescue, and Transport Canberra and City Services have responded to more than 60 calls for help following today’s damaging winds.

Volunteers from the SES have been called to repair electrical threats from fallen power lines as well as damage from fallen trees.

The SES responded to calls right across Canberra although the majority occurred in the southern suburbs of Macarthur, Chisholm and Calwell.

Strong winds are expected to continue until tomorrow and the SES advises the Canberra community to be mindful of their surroundings, not to stand or park their vehicles under trees and to stay away from fallen power lines.

There has also been a power outage in the Weston Creek area.

Emergency crews were called to Maryborough Street in Fyshwick after a tree fell on powerlines.

Wind speeds of between 40 and 70 km/h have been recorded while the strongest gust of 76 km/h was recorded at Canberra Airport just before midday.

The airport recorded 10 mm of rain before 9:00 am. Rainfall since then has been sporadic.

The forecast is for winds to decrease in the middle of tomorrow, before becoming south to southwesterly and light in the late afternoon. Wednesday’s forecast is for a return to sunny conditions after a frosty morning.

The Bureau of Meteorology has also issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds and surf and heavy rain for a large section of coastal NSW from Sydney to the Victorian border.

Houseboat sinking

A houseboat on the Clyde River at Batemans Bay goes under during the storm. Photo: Stephanie Hunter.

On the NSW South Coast, minor flooding is occurring along the Deua River at Wamban, west of Moruya.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicted the Deua River at Wamban would reach around five metres at 4:00 pm today with minor flooding.

The Moruya River is expected to remain below the minor flood level.

Eurobodalla Shire Council is keeping a close eye on the vital Clyde Mountain link between Canberra and the coast following a landslip near Pooh Bear’s corner. A houseboat on the Clyde River also flooded and sank.

READ ALSO Fears for bushfire victims as torrential rain lashes coast

Other parts of coastal NSW have received more than 100 millimetres, with many homes between Batemans Bay and Merimbula feeling the brunt of the low-pressure system.

At 1:46 pm, a wind gust of 117 km/h was recorded at Montague Island off Narooma, while Moruya Airport also received winds in excess of 90 km/h during the morning.

A swell in excess of six metres is forecast for the South Coast, while waves of up to 10 metres have been recorded off Batemans Bay. The large swell is already causing further erosion of beaches along the entire NSW coastline.

The weather is coming from an east-coast low-pressure system that is expected to sit in the Tasman Sea for the next few days. The system is the result of a cold air mass that has travelled over inland NSW and intensified when it mixed with warmer water off the east coast.

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HiddenDragon6:05 pm 03 Aug 20

What’s “proportional and rational” on this subject (like many others) tends to be in the eye of the beholder – particularly if the beholders are not living with the risks which they think are quite OK to impose on others, backed up by a heavy-handed, strict-liability enforcement regime.

The current tree protection system we have in the ACT started out as a means to protect significant trees on leased land, which would be listed on a register, with the arbitrary, size-based protection rules eventually dropped after those trees had been identified.

That, of course, never happened – and many years on, what was supposedly a temporary system has become permanent and more restrictive and now we are told that even more restrictions are needed. So the solution to fixing a system which has failed to meet its significantly redefined objective (because it’s essentially a form of random tokenism being deployed for a much broader purpose) is to double down on failure.

I know there are people who oppose the current rules because those rules might make it harder to do what they want (on the bit of land which costs them a lot of money to buy and maintain – via rates – in this town), just as there are others who suddenly discover a passion for trees on nearby blocks when they hear of a proposed development/redevelopment which they don’t like and which might affect those trees. But, believe it or not, there are yet others who like trees, but not when those trees cause far, far greater problems than “dropping a few leaves on the driveway”.

George Watling12:43 pm 03 Aug 20

I doubt the folks at Arboriculture Australia are cherry pickers. The issue here is that we need to have a proportional and rational response to the risk of tree failure not a general campaign for the wholesale removal of trees that are sound.

When it comes to the risks of tree failure the cherry picking often comes from those pushing for weaker regulations. Too often one or two incidents of tree failure are used to push for the watering down of reasonable tree protection laws and/or as a cover to removal of trees that are getting the way of someone’s project or have just been dropping a few leaves on someone’s driveway.

If we were to apply the logic that a small risk (one in five million) is too much risk and radical action needs to be taken to address small risks we would have to ban the driving of cars and air travel. There is more risk of death and injury associated with driving and flying then there with having trees in your yard or street.

In the 19 years between 2000 and 2019 242 people were killed in car accidents in the ACT. In the 10 years between 2001 and 2011 4,447 people were injured in car accidents. You cant find the statistics for people who were injured and killed by tree failure for the same periods because they are so insignificant the ABS doesn’t report them as a category on their own.

HiddenDragon6:47 pm 02 Aug 20

More of this to come, with even tougher rules on the way for removal of over-sized trees on suburban blocks –


Generalised assertions about the benefits of trees, and cherry-picked statistics about the risks they present, are no moral basis for treating the homes and lives of some people as acceptable potential collateral damage in a lop-sided campaign which allows some to just talk about the blessings of an “urban forest”, while others pay the price of it.

George Watling10:59 am 31 Jul 20

According to Arboriculture Australia, the national peak body for arborists in Australia trees are an asset in a storm not a liability.

In a recent ABC news article entitled ‘Eucalyptus trees in our suburbs spark safety debate among scientists and citizens’ Arboriculture Australia spokesperson Mark Hartley stated that:
+ ‘If we look at storm damage in Australia, trees are nothing in the scheme of things. Hail does far more damage’,
+ ‘Trees absorb energy from the wind, they slow it down, and transfer that energy to the ground. Without those trees the consequences would be horrendous’,
+ ‘more people are killed each year by horses, chairs, and falling out of bed’ then by trees,
+ ‘the chances of being killed by a falling tree is one in five million’
+ what people are concerned about when it comes to trees and danger ‘is not a reality. It’s just a phobia that is irrational’


I’m sure some large trees reduced the damage of the hail storm, even though being damaged themselves. A car was parked under large trees in my street and when the owner returned to it, he was not able to see any damage. Even a crop of corn in my vegetable garden saved the tomatoes. They were damaged, but were able to recover.

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