Authorities prepare for summer’s wild weather
AUTHORITIES are braced for what is statistically Geelong’s most conducive period for severe summer thunderstorms.
According to historical analysis from Geelong Weather Services documenting 163 severe thunderstorms, onefifth have struck the region between January 15 and February 7, making it the most concentrated period of thunder-filled fury.
The Bureau of Meteorology defines a storm as severe when it is observed to produce wind gusts above 90km/h, hail greater than 2cm in diameter, heavy rainfall or tornadoes.
The January 17, 1981 storm was considered one of Geelong’s most destructive, producing a 102km/h wind gust at Point Wilson, capsizing countless yachts and killing a golfer who attempted to take shelter under a tree.
The period has been particularly notorious for lightning-related injuries, causing five fatalities since 1960 and an injury most recently on January 27, 2016, when the city received more than a month’s rainfall within an hour and sent cars floating down Moorabool St.
Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Simon Grainger said weather model reanalysis showed January and February traditionally had all the ingredients for severe thunderstorms.
“January and into February brings a favourable combination in this part of the world of moist air flowing down from the tropics and when it gets here there’s more chance of development due to the warmer land, which would increase the likelihood of storms,” he said.
Mr Grainger said while a hot air mass had dominated the weather over the month, driving a week of warmth in Geelong this week, its origins from inland Australia didn’t support the chance of history repeating.
Bureau of Meteorology severe weather manager Steven McGibbony said storms required a specific formula of heat, moisture and local-scale factors to form, making them difficult to pinpoint more than a few days out.
City of Greater Geelong director of city services Guy Wilson-Browne said teams were on-call to respond when required in the typically busy period. Flash flooding is one of the city’s major concerns. Mr Wilson-Browne said council was looking at ways to improve its existing stormwater drainage network.
“The city’s engineering team undertakes modelling of flood prone areas and examines historical data to determine possible ways of reducing the risk of flooding to properties,” he said.
Council is currently working on the Lara Flood Study, which will eventually result in detailed flood maps for the Hovells Creek catchment, supporting efforts to safeguard Rennie St, Lara.
Geelong will hit a top of 33C today and total fire ban is in place across the region.