Storm leaves a wild trail of destruction across Ballarat suburbs

PHOTOS: Ballarat's Wild Storm

Hailstorm leaves trail of destruction

Mount Clear man's horror

The mess at Leo Ryan's place

“THIS was a ripper – never seen anything like it,” Mt Clear resident Leo Ryan said.

His words echoed the feeling of residents worst struck by Friday night’s thunderstorm in Mt Helen, Mt Clear, Sebastopol and Cardigan Village.

Others described the five-minute horror hit as apocalyptic.

Trees ripped out at the roots or snapped like matchsticks caused the most damage – blocking roads, crashing through houses, smashing cars or shedding thick layers of leaves across wet roads.

Flower beds and veggie patches looked like they had been obliterated by machine guns.

By 6pm on Saturday, the State Emergency Service had completed 351 jobs in the region, Ballarat’s 46 members had clocked up 566 hours’ work, 70 workers from external units from as far away as Melbourne, Geelong, Torquay and Castlemaine came in to help.

And the jobs, yet to be counted, kept pouring in late yesterday as more residents returned from a weekend away to confront the destruction. Crews worked quickly in concentrated areas until 1.30am yesterday morning and were back on the job by daylight.

Power lines were pulled taut in Landale Street, Mt Clear, where a tree fell on a wire and a nearby pole snapped. SES workers on scene said it was lucky not to cause a domino effect of toppling power poles. The street’s power – out since 8.30pm Friday night – was mostly restored by Saturday night.

Ballarat SES duty officer Frank Gillett said a full clean-up would take another week or so, but most roads and major damage was cleared at the weekend.

Mt Clear was quiet on Saturday afternoon. Only the sound of chainsaws and outdoor brooms could be heard during a walk through the worst-affected areas.

The smell of fresh pine and eucalyptus was powerful.

Families worked together with neighbours to break up tree debris, and neighbours selflessly helped those hit hardest.

Generators were run in neighbouring houses to help keep fridges running.

Friends in other suburbs offered up freezer space for Christmas food, like turkey, bought early for the festive season. Others cooked for those with no power.

On a drive along major roads leading into Mt Clear and Cardigan Village, it looked as if an angry giant had snapped in half every big gum  tree along the roads.

Buninyong leading senior constable Kim Oliva said community help and co-operation, when needed and allowed, was much appreciated in her post-storm duties on Friday night.

Motorists used their hazard lights to help her with traffic flow, and also moved small branches from the roads.

“As little as it might have seemed, it did help us out,” Senior Constable Oliva said.

“We got the job done quickly and could move on quickly.”

Weatherzone counted 125 lightning strikes within a 10-kilometre radius about the city’s centre. Most were on the southern and south-west outskirts.

The storm was fast-moving, lasting about five to 10 minutes along its path at 8.30pm, in small concentrated pockets. Central and northern Ballarat were largely unaffected.

Ballarat Airport, bypassed by the storm, recorded 16mm of rain on Friday night, one-third of the monthly average.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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