Wet 'n' wild in the south-west

SPECTACULAR wild weather across the south-west had emergency services rushing around yesterday after strong winds battered trees, damaged properties and flooded roads.

SES and Victoria Police were inundated with reports of building damage and trees on roads around Warrnambool, Portland and Heywood.

Destructive gale force winds reached 70km/h with peak gusts of 111km/h recorded in the morning.

Senior Sergeant Tania Barbary said it was the busiest morning for Warrnambool police in a long time. “Winter certainly made its presence known,” she said.

“Police have been attending to a large number of calls for trees across roads, branches hanging low across roads, powerlines down, a trampoline that had gone wayward, a sign that had come adrift outside the Homemakers Centre, and now flooding down at Stanley Street.

“Viaduct Road has been closed. We’ve been assisting Powercor, SES and council, all working together.”

She said there had been no reports of injuries and it appeared people were taking extra care in the conditions.

Hamilton police said powerlines came down in Dunkeld and Hamilton, requiring SES assistance.

South Warrnambool Kindergarten was forced to send children home just after 11am, when the rear of the Stanley Street property was covered by the flooded Merri River.

Parents were asked to pick up children or collect them later from Mahogany Kinder on Hoddle Street.

The water did not enter the kindergarten building and began to recede during the afternoon.

Warrnambool City’s infrastructure services manager Glenn Reddick said Viaduct Road would remain closed overnight until an assessment today.

“The road surface took a pounding from waves and dislodged rocks,” Mr Reddick said.

“McDonald Street has been reopened, but motorists are being advised to proceed cautiously.”

With the Hopkins River also rising, Proudfoots On The River owner Heather Collins told The Standard she was concerned the restaurant could be flooded if the river mouth was not opened soon. 

More than 90 Warrnambool customers lost power early in the morning due to faults at Kelp Street, while 241 Mailors Flat customers, 65 at Minjah and more than 400 at Macarthur lost power for much of the morning.

A fallen tree blocked Penshurst-Warrnambool Road one kilometre south of Penshurst near Ritchie Street just before 9am. 

In Peterborough meanwhile, the Great Ocean Road was closed at Irvine Street due to a fallen street light. 

Detours were put in place at Nullawarre and Port Campbell Road and the road closed until 1pm.

Emergency crews also had to fix a broken levy in Port Campbell.

In Port Fairy powerful waves at the south-west passage threw boulders on to Ocean Drive and the swollen Moyne River submerged the wharf precinct. 

Huge storm surges put on a dramatic show, crashing over the Griffiths Island causeway. 

Port Fairy SES unit controller Stephen McDowell said crews went to nearly 20 jobs during the day, travelling as far as Ripponhurst near Macarthur. 

“It’s been one of our busiest days in many years,” Mr McDowell said. 

“Most of the big jobs were building damage. We had a lot of trees on roofs.” 

Crews also responded to a chimney collapse in Southern Cross. 

Port Fairy historian Marten Syme said the wild weather was a yearly occurrence in the township, but he believed they were becoming more intense.

“Every year you get high tides of this order,” Mr Syme said. 

“Certainly the tide levels seem to be higher than what they have been the past couple of years.” 

Mr Syme said it raised further concerns about the long-term security of homes along the riverfront.

He said erosion at East Beach had dominated concerns in the recent years but “now there are concerns about flood levels backing up in the Moyne River”.

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