“Very dangerous thunderstorms” have lashed Melbourne, amid warnings of “life-threatening flash flooding” in parts of Victoria on Thursday.
“We have seen rainfall rates approach what we would expect once in a century,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Jackson Browne told the ABC.
The weather bureau issued a red warning for severe thunderstorms across northern and western Melbourne and the southern Macedon Ranges just before 7am.
Heavy rain was expected to affect people living in the city’s inner-eastern, central, northern, south-eastern, outer-eastern, northern and western suburbs.
Shortly after, storms cut through Melbourne, with the city’s north and east the hardest hit. About 5000 people were left without power.
The state’s emergency services also issued a watch and act alert, warning people in greater Melbourne to prepare to take shelter and watch for hazards such as floodwater, debris, damaged building, trees down and fallen power lines.
“Very dangerous thunderstorms were detected on the weather radar near Gisborne and Woodend. These thunderstorms are moving from the north of Melbourne towards the south to south-east,” the emergency alert said.
“Severe weather causing intense rainfall that may lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding is likely.”
The Department of Transport warned drivers and public transport passengers to “be vigilant” as the weather conditions could change quickly.
“Drivers should carefully consider the need to travel in the area and follow the direction of emergency services,” the department said.
V/Line and Melbourne-bound trains from Bendigo were delayed due to signal faults caused by the storm, with people asked to take care on platforms due to slippery surfaces.
On the roads, drivers were asked to leave extra space between them and the car in front, use headlights and pull over if the rain becomes too heavy.
In an update at 7.45am, the BOM said the thunderstorms were moving towards the south-east.
Mark Analak from BOM said there would be a “fine or clear” period after the morning storms cleared.
“But we are expecting showers and thunderstorms to return this afternoon, so there could be further warnings,” he told the ABC.
Earlier, Malmsbury Headwall had 56.2 millimetres of rain in the 60 minutes to 5.15am, while Trentham Reservoir got 38.6 millimetres in the hour to 6am.
The thunderstorms have been brought on by a “very humid, unstable airmass”, the bureau said.
There is a more general severe thunderstorm warning more most other areas of Victoria throughout Thursday.