Thursday, 12 November 2020

Stormy Weather

Here are some reports, from one hundred or so years ago, of fierce storms in the area

Pakenham - October 1892
A hurricane storm passed over the township on Tuesday, and residents here of 40 years' standing never remember such a storm. Fences were laid flat, and trees by the hundreds were broken and uprooted in all directions. Many houses were damaged by the roofs being blown off. Great anxiety was felt for Robertson's Gembrook coach. Happily the driver and horses returned after having an exceedingly rough trip, and it was a miracle that they escaped from the falling timber. 
(The Argus, October 13, 1892, see here)

Berwick - September 1898
A terrific storm - One of the severest storms experienced for years passed over the colony on Saturday, and left wreckage in its track from Portland to Gabo Island.... Forty-four points of rain were registered in the city, but in some of the country districts the downpour was much heavier. At Berwick 118 points  fell. Vivid lightning, with loud thunder, accompanied the downpour, aud although in the city the lightning had no very serious effect, houses were damaged and many trees were splintered. At the telegraph office, according to the statements of some of the employes, a blinding flash of lightning travelled from one end of the room to the other, almost paralysing one of the messengers with fear, and setting the switch board rattling like the noise of exploding crackers. The office was immediately "cut off" and no business could be done for nearly an hour. 
(The Age, September 19, 1898 see here)

Pakenham - January 1902
Remarkable Dust storm - The heavy gale which raged throughout Tuesday night swept over the greater part of the state, and caused considerable damage in many places, principally in the unroofing of houses, blowing down of light buildings, and the destruction of orchards and gardens. The dust-storms were the worst experienced for a very long time, and extraordinary effects are reported from various places in the country. At Pakenham - The orchards suffered very severely. At Toomuc Valley orchard and also at Mr. Hatfield's, the ground is covered with fruit. It is estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases of fruit blown off the trees at these orchards alone. It will be a total loss. 
(The Argus, January 23, 1902, see here)

Pakenham - February 1903
The weather last week was very unseasonable, and terminated on Saturday in a violent n.w. hurricane, carrying clouds of dust, and finally a welcome downpour of muddy rain fell, registering 90 points.
 (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, February 18, 1903, see here)

Gembrook - March 1903
A terrific storm occurred this afternoon, and great damage was done by a cyclone half a mile wide. In its course trees were blown down, roofs torn off houses, sheds and outbuildings destroyed. The roads on the track of the cyclone are all blocked with fallen trees. It is still raining. More than one inch has been recorded. 
(The Age, March 4, 1903, see here)

Pakenham & Koo Wee Rup - February 1905
Last night a heavy storm passed over here. The wind blew furiously, and 106 points of rain fell. At Koo-wee-rup South* a regular cyclone passed over the place. At the state school two outhouses were blown over and smashed to pieces, and a bedroom window was blown from the head master's house into the school yard. Some of the weatherboards were also torn off. The school is in an exposed position. 
(The Argus, February 13, 1905, see here).

Yannathan - February 1915
On Saturday afternoon last a storm of unprecedented violence swept across the district, and was particularly severe at Yannathan. All day the weather had been threatening, and thunder showers which visited other parts of the district left this locality untouched. But at about 4 o'clock, while about 30 ladies and gentlemen were witnessing a cricket match in Mr Stewart's paddock between the Lang Lang and Yannathan teams, a densely black cloud, lit up constantly by vivid flashes of lightning, was seen approaching from the south-west. When the first drops of rain fell players and spectators left the field for the shelter of the Mechanics' Hall, and while there the storm burst, and for about ten minutes the elements were in almost indescribable tumult. A hurricane blew jinkers about the hall yard, and everything in the shape of boxes and loose timber was lifted by its violence. Then something in the nature of a cloud-burst descended, and rain and pieces of ice fell in such density that looking across towards the Union Church, only a shadowy outline of the building could, be seen, and the hall yard was soon under water. Deafening peals of thunder and constant flames of lightning combined with the downpour, and twice the crash of a falling tree was heard. The door of the church being opened, all made a dash from the hall and entered, but were drenched in doing so. As suddenly as it broke, the storm abated, and very little rain fell during the remainder of the afternoon.

At Yallock the storm was also very severe. Mr Bourke, of Monomeith Park, registered 68 points of rain But, strange to state, practically no rain fell at Lang Lang, while along the coast the storm was of exceptional severity. Near Mr Pearson's it did some damage by washing away the road formation. The hurricane appears to have divided itself into two channels, one sweeping across Cranbourne, Clyde and the Swamp, and culminating at Yannathan in the severest storm ever known there, while the other portion followed a track along the coast.

During the afternoon we regret to state that a young man named Dan Cameron, 17 years of age, employed by Mr W. H. Gardiner, of Yannathan, was struck by lightning and killed instantly. He had been employed off and on by Mr Gardiner for some years past and for the past eight or nine months had been at work constantly at his place. He was out in the paddock, and between 4 and 5 p.m. he was evidently caught in the storm, and found shelter under a tree - a very dangerous situation during the occurrence of lightning. While there he was struck by a lightning flash,and it is thought that death must have been instantaneous, because his hand was found placed behind his back, a favorite attitude of the deceased. The tree under which he had been standing was shattered to pieces and deceased's clothing was torn to shreds, down his breast being a distinct impress of the tree beneath which he was standing. The parents of the deceased, who reside at Beaconsfield, were communicated with, and the interment took place in the Berwick cemetery.

The same afternoon four sheep belonging to LeRoux Bros, at the Red Bluff were struck by lightning and killed. 
(Lang Lang Guardian, February 24, 1915, see here)

Yallock - October 1917
During a violent thunder-storm on Sunday afternoon, Mr J. Orchard, of Yallock, had the misfortune to have a horse struck with lightning, and the animal was killed instantly.
(Lang Lang Guardian, October 17, 1917, see here)

Clyde - June 1919
Squally, stormy weather was experienced here during the week-end. On Sunday at about 7.30, the strong N E wind which had been blowing all day increased to a hurricane, and travelling in a south westerly direction, and for a width of about 3 chains carried everything before it. Limbs of trees were seen lying in all directions, and the iron roof of Mr Hunter's barn was lifted bodily, and some of the iron sheets was carried for a distance of 100 yards. 
(South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 19, 1919, see here)

Bayles Butter Factory, 1923.
Photo: Bayles Fauna Park collection

Bayles - May 1928
At 12.30 p.m. to day some men working in a butter and cheese factory owned by Sage and Co. Pty. Ltd, Melbourne, heard an extraordinary noise, which appeared to be caused by a sudden roar of wind, ending in a thunderclap. They rushed out of the factory, and as they did so the roof seemed to be lifted bodily and was swept away at a terrific speed. Later on the greater portion of the tin roof, measuring 60 feet by 20 feet, was found half a mile away. The cyclone was awe inspiring, and struck terror into the hearts of those who witnessed it. The men working in the factory were not injured, and after finding out where the rest of the roof had landed they returned to work. The machinery was not damaged. The weather had been fine up to the time of the cyclone, but after that it ruined heavily. 
(The Age, May 12, 1928, see here)

Bayles and Cora Lynn - May 1928
Shortly after midday on Friday a cyclone, travelling from the coast, passed through Bayles in the direction of Cora Lynn, a few miles from Koo-wee-rup, leaving wreckage in its trail. The roof of Sage and Co.'s butter factory lifted off, and portion carried in the air for half a mile. Stables, in, which horses were feeding, were swept away, haystacks and telegraph poles blown down. The horses in the stable were not harmed. 
(Weekly Times, May 19, 1928, see here)

We will finish up with not only a storm but an earth tremor - the town of Cardinia is spelt as Kardinia in this report.
Tooradin - August 1935
About 8 p.m. on Saturday a violent electrical storm at Tooradin was heralded by two distinct earth tremors. During the earlier part of the evening what is described by local residents as an eerie light was
visible in the sky to the southward, extending over Bass Strait. At 8 p.m. Mr. J. Conroy, farmer, of Kardinia, seven miles from Tooradin, was sitting at home with one foot on the chimney ledge when he felt the chimney distinctly sway. Doors and windows throughout the house rattled, and about
ten minutes after the tremor had subsided the thunder storm broke. Heavy peals of thunder shook the house, and heavy rain set in, which continued throughout the night. 
At Tooradin the earth tremor was also reported by Mr. D. M. Henderson and Mr. McFarlane, the local station master. It was followed almost immediately by the breaking of the thunder storm. The storm was the most severe experienced in the district for a number of years. The thunder was particularly violent and the lightning of an unusual type. It appeared in the form of a centre of fire, gradually widening laterally until the whole vicinity was illuminated.
Torrential rain fell for about twenty minutes, and then steadied to a downpour, which continued through the night. The storm worked southward, and appeared to lose its intensity over Bass Strait. Rain fell intermittently throughout yesterday, and it was still raining at 6 p.m. Should this continue throughout to-night flood conditions will be imminent. The "canal" and local main drains are already running bankers and cannot accommodate any further falls. 
No damage is reported from the earth tremor, which was felt over a wide area. Some settlers in outlying portions report two distinct shocks.
(The Age, August 5, 1935, see here)

* You may find it hard to believe but Koo Wee Rup South was actually Koo Wee Rup North.  There have been five primary schools called Koo Wee Rup and ironically the original Koo Wee Rup State School, No.2629, was actually called Yallock, until 1903 when it was changed to Koo Wee Rup. The Cora Lynn State School, No. 3502, was known as Koo Wee Rup Central when it opened in January 1907 and changed its named to Cora Lynn in September of that year. The Modella State School, No.3456, was known as Koo Wee Rup East when it opened in January 1904. The Koo Wee Rup North State School, No.3198, at Five Mile, was initially called Koo Wee Rup South when it opened in July 1894. Finally, the Iona State School, No. 3201, was originally known as Koo Wee Rup North.

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