SOUTH-WEST Victoria’s spectacular coastal storm surges this week may be interpreted by some as a climate change-induced event, but for hardened weather watchers it was just another big chilly blast.
An intense low pressure system sucking in cold air from south of Tasmania whipped up huge waves.
Combined with a high tide, the wind speeds of 100 kilometres an hour pushed seawater inland and battered seawalls.
Warrnambool professional fisherman Gary Ryan said there was an even more spectacular coastal storm a few years ago and it was not uncommon to have them two or three times a year in the past.
“This one may have looked worse because of the high tide,” he said.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Terry Ryan said the recent storm was technically called a cold outbreak.
“We get them every couple of years,” he said.
“This one was fairly unusual because it was such a strong and widespread westerly.
“More winds are forecast Wednesday night and there will be another cold change on Saturday.
“We are forecasting above-average temperatures and rain in the next few months, but there are signals of another El Nino later in the year.”
Some sightseers risked their safety by playing chicken with huge waves over the Warrnambool breakwater precinct landmark.
“Police had to caution several sightseers for their own safety,” Sergeant Callum McKinnon said.
“A few climbed on top of the breakwater where five to 10-metre waves were topping.
“People should keep a safe distance from storm waves.
“We also had to stop two drivers who went through Macdonald Street despite the road closure signs due to floodwater.”
Meanwhile, city council engineers took some pride in how their often-criticised strategy of layering seaweed and dredged sand along Lady Bay sand dunes stood up to the pounding of waves.
“It appears the fortification of the dunes using dredged material and buried seaweed helped protect the primary dune and promenade from erosion during Tuesday’s wild weather,” infrastructure services manager Glenn Reddick said.
“We conduct regular surveys of the seabed in Lady Bay to monitor sand movement and will undertake an updated survey as soon as possible.”
New flood levels for building permits will apply later this year in the South Warrnambool area which was partly flooded during the storm surge.
A planning amendment will be exhibited next month applying also to north Warrnambool and Dennington where the one-in-100 year storm event levels were reviewed.