Last updated: March 08, 2010

Weather: Sydney 22°C - 28°C . A few showers. Chance thunderstorm.

Mini-cyclone Melbourne storm causes transport, sporting event chaos

HAIL blanketed Melbourne like snow as a mini-cyclone storm lashed the city, causing transport chaos and forcing the cancellation of sporting events and a festival.

And Melburnians should expect another dose of nasty weather tomorrow, with rain of up to 100mm forecast.

The storm hit today at 2.40pm (AEDT), dumping 26mm of rain on Melbourne in less an hour.

Nineteen millimetres of rain pounded the city in less than 18 minutes.

Hail the size of golf balls showered the city, with reports of some hail stones the size of cricket balls in Ferntree Gully, in Melbourne's outer east.

Wind gusts exceeding 100km/h lashed Melbourne Airport and Southern Cross train station was evacuated as rain tore a hole in its roof and a deluge splashed down on the train platforms.

The city's Moomba festival was abandoned and several thousand people were stranded waiting for limited trains and replacement bus services at Flemington Station, after Super Saturday was washed out.

"It was very dark and all of a sudden it was like a hurricane or a howling wind came through,'' said Josh Bell, who was in the members' grandstand when the storm hit.

"Marble-sized hail stones came down for about 10 minutes.

"The track was covered in hail. It was all white. It looked like it had snowed.''

The storm forced the cancellation of the NAB Cup AFL football game between Brisbane and Geelong.

In an ironic twist, the game was only rescheduled to Melbourne at the last minute because of poor weather all week on the Gold Coast, where the match was supposed to be played.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Scott Williams described the weather as a "super cell storm,'' the likes of which are only seen in Melbourne about once every five to 10 years.

"What you get with the super cell thunderstorm that we've had is that the clouds actually do rotate around a centre of low pressure,'' he said.

"It is like a mini-cyclone.''

The SES received more than 2500 calls for help, with 1000 coming from the Knox area, in Melbourne's outer east.

By about 8pm (AEDT) only 500 of the jobs had been cleared and spokesman Andrew Gissing urged people to be patient.

Thirty thousand CitiPower and Powercor Australia customers in the central business district and inner suburbs lost power, with 8000 still without supply about 9pm.

Metro spokesman Chris Whitefield said delays across the entire train network were about 40 minutes.

Trains on the Sandringham line were suspended and buses replaced trains on sections of the Alamein, Belgrave and Pakenham lines.

The violent weather is expected to continue tomorrow.

Mr Williams said it was likely there would be more storms across the state tomorrow, but they would not be as severe as Saturday's deluge.

"Tomorrow I think there is a good chance that we'll get some severe thunderstorms once again,'' he said.

"It's pretty much the whole state. We're under a major tropical air mass with a low pressure system coming in from the west.''


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