A WOMAN with an “angel on her shoulder” was standing just metres from where a large tree fell at Lake Wendouree on Monday afternoon.
Heavy storms caused headaches across the region from early Monday morning, with half a dozen fallen trees, power outages and transport disruptions.
Christine Cama was walking around Lake Wendouree near Pipers Cafe at 1.30pm when a “mini-tornado” swept through and caused a tree to snap, crushing two cars.
“All I could think was ‘I hope no one was in those cars’,” she said.
“I’m not one to panic but I went into a little bit of shock. When those branches crashed I thought ‘I don’t know where to stand or where to go’.
“I just pulled up at the gardens (in my car) and I was sitting there and thought I’ll just get out.
“I was struggling to put my raincoat on and I’d only walked past a couple of cars when a massive tree came down right in front of me ... I was literally just a few metres away – it was weird it happened so quick.”
Herman Licayan was also at the lake, eating lunch in his car when the storm rolled through.
“It happened quickly. I had one bite of my hamburger, and the wind changed radically,” he said.
“I saw the branches giving way. It was too late to move out, I didn’t know if there was a car behind me, so I was stuck inside my car.”
A massive branch came down “three inches” from the right side of Mr Licayan’s car.
“It was shocking. There was no damage at all – I was extremely lucky,” he said.
SES worked to clear the scene from 1.45pm.
The intensity of Monday morning’s lightning show was captured by Ballarat photographer Peter Kervarec about 1am.
“The percussion from the blast felt like a big push in the chest,” Mr Kervarec said.
“It was the most active storm I have seen for many years, with the lightning being especially forked and defined.
“There wasn’t a dark sky to be seen because of the frequency and intensity of the bolts – just incredible.”
Thousands of homes across the region were without power on Monday morning, with lightning destroying several fuse boxes.
Beaufort was the hardest hit with almost 3500 homes and businesses without power following the storm.
Resident Michael O’Connor said his home was without power for a couple of hours after 9am.
“It made life difficult in terms of internet connection – you don’t realise how much you rely on these basic services until it’s gone,” Mr O’Connor said.
More than 17,000 homes and businesses were without power in the west and central region of Victoria.
SES received call-outs to Ballarat, Newington, Beaufort, Brown Hill, Buninyong and Lake Wendouree for trees down.
Mid-West duty officer John Hooper said despite a heavy downpour, the storm was not very damaging.
“The storms haven’t been that bad. The predominance of the storm was running along the coast but there might have been isolated pockets of severe storm,” he said.
However, the thunder and lightning meant fire crews were in for a busy Monday morning, which started just after midnight when a tree caught fire after being struck by lightning near the intersection of Skipton and Antonios Road, Scarsdale.
From 1am, crews attended three alarms set off by the storm in a matter of minutes at Clarendon College, Town Hall and Ballarat Grammar.
The final call out of the night was to a false alarm at the Department of Defence on Sturt Street at 6.40am.