Last updated: March 09, 2010

Weather: Sydney 20°C - 29°C . Fine. Sunny.

Melbourne storm bill to top hundreds of millions of dollars

Melbourne hail storm

Melburnians battle hailstones during an intense storm / Image supplied Source: Supplied

Storm damages parts of Melbourne

MELBOURNE is facing a clean-up bill of hundreds of millions of dollars after one of the worst storms for years.

Experts are still assessing the cost of the massive thunderstorm, which cut a swathe of destruction from Flemington to Ferntree Gully.

A similar hailstorm in Sydney two years ago left the city with a $400 million repair bill.

The "supercell storm", which weather experts said would have been more at home in the tropics than Melbourne, hit major buildings including Southern Cross Station, Etihad Stadium and the Arts Centre along with suburban homes.

Thousands of motorists face repair bills for vehicles pounded by hail.

Premier John Brumby said he could not place a figure on the damage bill, but said the Arts Centre roof alone was badly hit.

"The damage bill will clearly run to the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to repair that," he said.

As 80 interstate volunteers flew to Victoria to help clean up the mess, it was revealed:

- A Flemington couple feared their baby would drown as their house was virtually destroyed by the deluge.

- Customers ran for cover as $8 million worth of vehicles were smashed by cricket ball sized hailstones at a Ferntree Gully car showroom.

- A boy, 6, owed his life to a bike helmet after a direct hit to the head by a large hailstone.

- Two people are in intensive care with serious injuries and thousands of others suffered bruising and welts after being showered with golf-ball sized hail.

Hailstones punched through the wave-shaped roof at Southern Cross station, forcing the evacuation of commuters.

YouTube was awash with videos from Melburnians who captured the storm's devastating fury.

The SES appealed for Melbourne residents to be patient yesterday, after receiving more than 4000 calls for assistance.

More than 100,000 homes lost power and many were still blacked out yesterday.

Victorians were also warned against swimming in swollen rivers and streams.

Paramedics also issued a plea for men to keep off ladders during dangerous storms after treating five men in the Rowville area.

The storm caught thousands of families by surprise at Moomba.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said there had been some cuts and bruises, a lot of frightened kids, but no reports of major injuries.

Vets at the Lort Smith Animal Hospital in North Melbourne treated a range of animals for injuries, including possums, cockatoos, tawny frogmouth owls and seagulls.

Animal shelters across Melbourne took in several dogs who fled in panic during the storm.

Mr Brumby said the insurance industry responded "very quickly and very well" after the storms, activating round-the-clock service lines.

"For many people it's important to get that call in straight away so that assessors can get out and authorise repairs to be made," he said.

At least 11 families had to be relocated from their homes in Melbourne, with another four families moved from residences in Warragul and Traralgon due to flooding or building damage.

The deluge knocked out 100 traffic lights and damaged eight police stations and 20 schools.

Weather bureau spokesman Kevin Parky said Victorians can expected to be "belted with winds" of up to 100km/h today as a low deepens over southwest Victoria.

"With any luck we will be in a gradually stabilising pattern as we head into next week to give us and the emergency services a bit of relief to get on top of the thousands of jobs they have been asked to attend."

Additional reporting Evonne Barry, Matt Johnston and Grant McArthur.

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