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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Summer havoc as winds top 100km/h [04jan06]

Summer havoc as winds top 100km/h

WIND gusts up to 57 knots or 106km/h lashed Tasmania yesterday, bringing down powerlines, ripping off roofs and sending waterfront chairs and tables flying into the River Derwent.

Trees crashed across roads and fell on cars and garages, causing havoc for emergency services throughout the day.

Fire, Tasmania Police and Aurora crews were swamped with wind damage reports.

The wind blew up about 11pm on Monday and strengthened overnight.

Tasmania Police reported a salmon pen washed ashore at Sheepwash Bay on Bruny Island, part of a pontoon adrift on the River Derwent and a road blocked by a tree at Crabtree.









One lane of the Midland Highway was blocked by a large fallen tree 2km south of Melton Mowbray, as was a lane of Davey St in Hobart.

Sandy Bay traffic lights also lost power.

Weather Bureau meteorologist Ian Barnes-Keoghan said: "Unusual winds throughout the Christmas and New Year period have carried mainly westerly winds -- it's been a little more like spring."

Mr Barnes-Keoghan said low-pressure systems had been controlling the weather.

"Today is the pick of the crop. There have been a lot of gusts. We haven't had a gust of this speed since 1987 in Hobart," he said.

In 1967 and 1978, 130km/h winds were recorded in Hobart.

Mr Barnes-Keoghan said the state's South-East experienced the strongest gusts yesterday and advised people to secure loose items.

"These sorts of winds are strong enough to move surprisingly large objects," he said.

Aurora's Christine Ward said some service wires had been damaged, together with low-voltage lines, but no major lines were out.

Power cuts on the Tasman Bridge had affected traffic about 10am yesterday.

The winds struck Westerway, Ellendale and Fentonbury, leaving 400 customers without power.

At Acacia Hills, near Devonport, a fallen tree also affected power supplies.

And 120 households in the Midlands farming community Royal George lost power, with the cause still under investigation.

State Emergency Service operations manager Mark Nelson said the SES had been alerted to minor damage around the state.

"There's been roofs off and trees down, nothing major," Mr Nelson said.

Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania sailing manager Tony Nicholas said race two and three of Sailing South Race Week had been cancelled.

The Derwent Sailing Squadron also cancelled heats three and four of the Australian Paper Tiger Nationals yesterday.

"There were many boats returning home after finishing the Sydney-to-Hobart yesterday," Mr Nicholas said.

"A lot of those boats are sheltering anywhere from Port Arthur to Bicheno, depending on how far they got."

There were also reports of boats slipping moorings, including a 20-footer on the rocks at Bellerive's Kangaroo Bay.

The wind caused havoc on the Taste of Tasmania's final day, with 1500 outdoor chairs and tables packed up to prevent damage and injury.

Hobart Summer Festival producer David Laskey said that in the decade he had been involved with the Taste he had never experienced such fierce winds.

The bureau expects better conditions today.

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