Residents of an Adelaide suburb have described how they thought they were under attack after a frightening storm, likely to have been a tornado, wreaked havoc on Tuesday night.
While homeowners in Morphett Vale, in the city’s south, are busy cleaning up storm damage the Bureau of Meteorology is investigating whether the wild 80km/h winds were generated by a winter tornado.
The damage was most severe in one street where debris fell on homes, fences and cars. At least seven properties were reported damaged.
Resident Steven Laidlaw told the Adelaide Advertiser he heard a noise like an aircraft travelling over his home as trees came down in the wind.
“It was very frightening, I wondered what the hell had happened,” he told the paper.
Paul told the ABC he was about to watch a movie when he heard the wind pick up.
"We were just about to pick a movie … then 'whoosh, whoosh', three flashes, the loudest bang, then a massive yellow explosion," he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
"I said, 'Get down, we're under attack.' Honestly, I was [in] fear for our lives.”
How was the weather at your place overnight? Residents in Diamond street, Morphett Vale experienced a freak storm which has been described as a small ‘tornado’. The @BOM_SA has told @ali__clarke & @DavidBevanSA they will be investigating what happened in the area. #adelaide pic.twitter.com/tIWicBuVVK— ABC Adelaide (@abcadelaide) August 18, 2020
The Bureau of Meteorology said the impact was characteristic of a cold-season tornado where bursts of wind and rain from cold fronts sweep up from the Southern Ocean.
The State Emergency Service responded to 26 calls for assistance since midnight and still has 11 jobs ongoing, most of those involving trees down across the Adelaide Hills.
Tornadoes not so common in Australia
BOM is still investigating whether the phenomenon was a tornado.
Senior forecaster Jenny Horvat told Yahoo News Australia it had the potential to be one given how “localised the damage was”.
Studying radar signatures and wind rotation will determine this.
Tornadoes do happen in Australia, but not at the same scale as ones in the US.
Damage caused by destructive winds in Adelaide's Morphett Vale overnight is characteristic of a cold-season tornado 🌪️The damage occurred overnight with heavy showers ahead of a cold front. Video via @G_Polychronis & @theTiser. More about tornadoes: https://t.co/2oRid7KAzb pic.twitter.com/BmEtvgBHE5— Bureau of Meteorology, South Australia (@BOM_SA) August 18, 2020
“When people think of tornadoes you think of the big ones like in the US,” Ms Horvat said.
“Ours are more on the small side but still cause damage. We also have lots of unpopulated areas where they come through.”
She said cold fronts during winter can bring “intense and violent winds” and lead to tornadoes.
“They don’t last very long,” she said.
A severe weather warning remains in place for areas north of Adelaide, including the town of Olary and the area east of Lake Frome and Danggali Conservation Park, where damaging winds, averaging 50-65 km/h with gusts to around 90 km/h are forecast for Wednesday.
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