FIRES and heavy rain lashed the Ballarat region simultaneously yesterday, with emergency crews receiving dozens of call-outs as the result of a powerful storm cell that hit about 4pm.
Street gutters were overwhelmed as flash flooding struck in several Ballarat suburbs, while grass fires broke out in areas including Miners Rest, Sulky, Mt Emu and Snake Valley.
CFA and Parks Victoria crews fought a large grass and bushfire on the slopes of Mt Warrenheip, with the nearby Kryal Castle evacuated and under threat about 4pm.
There were reports of fires at Canadian, Dereel, Lake Goldsmith, Mt Emu and Dunnstown, while smoke from a fire in the Carngham area was visible in the Ballarat CBD in the early afternoon and evening.
Two of the fires were within a few kilometres of the area that was burnt in the recent Carngham-Chepstowe fire.
In Ballarat, 31 millimetres of rain fell between 4.30pm and 6pm – almost three times the year’s total rainfall to date.
The deluge dumped almost 30 millimetres in just 40 minutes, causing flash flooding in Ballarat Central and parts of Sebastopol and Delacombe and Snake Valley.
Relative humidity jumped from 29 per cent at 3.30pm to as high as 90 per cent by 5pm.
The rain caused traffic chaos as visibility dropped to just a few metres at some stages. Businesses also felt the brunt of nature’s fury.
The CVGT building in Armstrong Street suffered a partial roof collapse as pooling water finally broke through a false ceiling inside the office.
No injuries were reported but the building was evacuated and police taped off the scene while SES and CFA workers assessed the damage.
Rain at Carngham also caused a woman driving a Ford sedan to veer off the road, slip down an embankment and collide with a tree.
The 50-year-old escaped with only minor injuries.
The Western Highway was closed in both directions between Eurambeen-Streatham Road at Beaufort and Geelong Road, Ararat, due to a bushfire at Buangor.
Ballarat SES duty officer Catherine Ogata said crews responded to about 20 calls for help in the area.
“The incidents were mostly building damage, water in houses, tiles off roofs and a few trees across roadways,” she said.
“Sebastopol was the worst-affected area but SES crews are also assisting CFA firefighters with the Buangor fire.”
The Bureau of Meteorology issued another severe thunderstorm warning shortly before 7.30pm for areas including Ballarat, Horsham, Warrnambool and Bendigo.