Melbourne lashed by hail as huge downpour complicates Victorian fire fighting effort

Yahoo News Australia and agencies

Heavy rain, damaging winds and large hail have hit Victoria, which could see firefighters pulled from areas in East Gippsland where fires continue to burn in the state.

"We're going to see some potential flash flooding and severe thunderstorms over the next couple of days, including some damaged fire areas," Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville warned on Sunday.

"And we will need to move firefighters from the ground. We've had deaths as a result of people being on wet fire grounds like that where you've had flash flooding," Ms Neville said

Around lunchtime on Sunday, the weather bureau confirmed the state was about to be hit by downpours but said the rainfall would be "hit and miss" and unlikely to put out blazes.

"Victoria is about to see its wettest two-day period in many, many months," Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Dean Narramore said.

"It will also impact fire zones as well," he said and a flood watch would be in place for eastern parts of the state from Sunday afternoon.

While rain is welcome it could be "hit and miss" with totals varying between 5mm to 15mm but "isolated falls" of 30mm to 50mm could hit certain areas, Mr Narramore said.

Melbourne smashed with ‘wild’ hailstorm

On Sunday afternoon, Melbourne was hit with heavy hail storms with many residents taking to social media to share images of the downpour.

Shortly after 4:40pm, the BoM issued a severe weather warning for parts of the city.

“Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Melbourne. A very dangerous thunderstorm is moving over the inner east and southeast,” the bureau warned. “This storm has produced hail up to 5cm in diameter and heavy rainfall.”

Welcome rain comes with with dangers in fire affected areas

"Unfortunately coming in this massive amount in one go, quickly does cause some risk ... both in how you capture most of that ... and also debris run-off and the potential for fallen trees," the emergency services minister said.

The dangerous conditions come as firefighters work to contain a blaze at French Island at Western Port which started on Saturday.

More than 87 hectares were destroyed but only one outbuilding was damaged, but the blaze did come very close to homes, authorities confirmed.

While still out of control, the fire was downgraded Sunday morning from an emergency warning to an advice warning.

Weatherzone map of upcoming severe weather forecast in Australia
Weatherzone forecast rain for January 20 - rain and storms will be hit and miss and severe weather is likely in multiple states. Source: Weatherzone

"Basically the fire on French Island did move very rapidly yesterday ... we basically got large air tankers in there quickly ... we actually had to take fire trucks across on a barge," Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner Chris Stephenson said.

"The news this morning is quite good and we hope we will contain that fire sometime later today."

The cause of the blaze is still unknown.

A fire burning on French Island overnight. Source: ABC News
A fire burning on French Island overnight. Source: ABC News

Across the state 396 homes had been destroyed in bushfires across the state and more than 600 outbuildings including sheds had also been razed.

In the last week more than 223 blazes started in Victoria and of those 20 were classed as "significant" and burned more than 50 hectares.

—With AAP

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.