Sydney urged to prepare for storms after 'most intense' season in four years


Source: SMH

The NSW State Emergency Service is warning Sydneysiders to brace for another damaging storm season this summer as new data reveals the city's worst-hit suburbs from last year.

NRMA Insurance data shows last summer was the most intense storm season in four years, with 61 per cent of all home insurance claims during 2018-19 triggered by storm damage. December was the worst month, with 86 per cent of claims resulting from storms including Sydney's worst hail storm in 20 years.

Suburbs in Sydney's north and west were the city's most storm-affected, while the Central Coast was also heavily hit. Berowra Heights, Castle Hill and Chipping Norton were the top three suburbs, followed by West Pennant Hills, Baulkham Hills, Casula, Quakers Hill, Berowra, Moorebank and Glenwood.

While the Bureau of Meteorology's severe weather outlook for this summer predicts an increased risk of heatwaves and bushfires, the potential for damaging storms remains.

A huge hail storm with golf ball-sized hail smashed windows and battered roofs across Sydney in December.

A huge hail storm with golf ball-sized hail smashed windows and battered roofs across Sydney in December.CREDIT:NICK MOIR, SUPPLIED

NSW SES Deputy Commissioner Rob McNeill said he expects this season's storms to be severe, with "violent weather behaviour" predicted between October and March.

"We're likely to see storms that bring large hailstones, tornadoes, heavy rain, localised flash flooding and damaging winds," Deputy Commissioner McNeill told the Herald.

10 most storm-affected Sydney suburbs in 2018-19

  1. Berowra Heights
  2. Castle Hill
  3. Chipping Norton
  4. West Pennant Hills
  5. Baulkham Hills
  6. Casula
  7. Quakers Hill
  8. Berowra
  9. Moorebank
  10. Glenwood

He said while the storm seasons were "pretty consistent over the decades", the biggest change in recent years was the season increasing in length.

"What is changing is the storm season corresponds with the bushfire season, which can give us some quite unusual situations like [in September] we had storms running through Sydney and also had bushfires impacting out in the Lithgow area."

As Sydney grows and the city's boundaries stretch further west, the expanding population means more people are impacted by damaging weather events.

Motorists are warned not to drive through flood waters during wild weather.

Motorists are warned not to drive through flood waters during wild weather.CREDIT:LOUISE KENNERLEY

"We see greater damage done due to more buildings, more people, more vehicles," Deputy Commissioner McNeill said.

"If a tree falls down in the middle of a paddock, it doesn't do damage to anyone. If it falls down in the middle of the suburbs of Wollongong or the Northern Beaches of Sydney or Katoomba, there is a chance to land on a car or damage some property."

As the storm season begins, residents are being warned to prepare, with NRMA Insurance manager Alex Mazzoni saying "prevention is key" to mitigate the risks of storm damage.

"Trim your branches, clear your gutters and secure loose items in your garden on your balcony. Severe weather can strike at any time, so these little actions can make a big difference," Mr Mazzoni said.

"What we're seeing is there’s an increased risk of storms along coast of NSW. A long-term trend that we're seeing is the risk of hail storms shifting south from more northerly areas [like northern NSW] to areas with larger populations like Newcastle, Gosford and Wollongong."

Deputy Commissioner McNeill lists three thing to watch out for this storm season: falling trees, ensuring loose items are tied down in strong winds, and avoiding driving through floods.

"Keep away from flood waters in general because they're extremely dangerous. So many times each year people think they can drive through floodwaters, they attempt it and they get into trouble, and that trouble can be quite serious trouble," he said.


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