Severe weather

Lightening storm iconSevere weather can include such things as severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, lightning strikes, gale force winds, blizzards, hail and dust storms.

These storms, which are more common than any other natural hazard, can occur anywhere in Australia.

Each year, on average, severe storms are responsible for more damage (as measured by insurance costs) than tropical cyclones, earthquakes, floods or bushfires.

Unfortunately, storms also kill people: between 5 and 10 deaths are caused by lightning strikes each year. More deaths occur when strong winds cause tree limbs to fall, debris to become projectiles and small boats in open water to capsize.

The Bureau of Meteorology issues Severe Weather Warnings whenever severe weather is occurring in an area or is expected to develop or move into an area. The warnings describe the area under threat and the expected hazards. Warnings are issued with varying lead-times, depending on the weather situation, and range from just an hour or two up to about 24 hours.

Unexpected severe weather on campus

  • Follow the guidelines to shelter in place
  • Move all people away from windows and shut windows
  • Close all curtains and blinds
  • Shelter in strongest part of building (e.g. central corridors)
  • Shut doors if appropriate
  • Keep clear of large areas with glass atriums or glass roofs
  • Keep clear of any heavy or large objects that may fall
  • Stay inside and follow all directions from staff/emergency services
  • If anyone is injured, administer first aid and as soon as possible call 000 for medical emergencies and call Security and report “Storm Damage” including location, type of damage and nature of injuries.

Preparing for severe weather

  • Listen to your ABC local radio station for storm warnings
  • Shelter and secure pets and animals
  • Put garden furniture, toys, etc. inside
  • Fill empty garbage bins with water to hold them down
  • Park vehicles under solid shelter or cover with firmly tied tarpaulins/blankets
  • Secure all external doors and windows and draw curtains
  • Put valuables, medications and spare warm clothing in plastic bags with your emergency kit and keep it handy
  • Disconnect all electrical items, external TV/radio aerials and computer modems
  • Avoid touching brick or concrete, or standing bare-footed on concrete or tiled floors.

During severe weather

  • Stay inside and shelter well clear of windows, doors and skylights
  • If the building starts to break up, shelter in the strongest part (cellar, internal room, hallway, or built-in wardrobe) under a mattress, doona, or a strong table or bench
  • Listen to your portable radio for severe thunderstorm warning updates
  • If outdoors, seek solid enclosed shelter (not a tree)
  • If driving, stop clear of trees, power lines and streams
  • Don’t use a fixed telephone during a thunderstorm due to lightning danger.

If caught outdoors

  • Seek shelter in a ‘hard-top’ (metal-bodied) vehicle or solid building but avoid small open structures or fabric tents.
  • Never shelter under small groups of (or single) trees.
  • If far from shelter, crouch (alone, feet together), preferably in a hollow. Remove metal objects from head/body. Don’t lie down flat but avoid being the highest object in the vicinity.
  • If your hair stands on end or you hear ‘buzzing’ from nearby rocks, fences, etc, move immediately. At night, a blue glow may show if an object is about to be struck (St Elmo’s fire).
  • Don’t fly kites, drones or model aeroplanes with control wires.
  • Don’t handle fishing rods, umbrellas or golf clubs etc.
  • Stay away from metal poles, fences, clothes lines etc.
  • Don’t ride horses, bicycles or travel in open vehicles.
  • If driving, slow down or park away from trees, power lines etc. Stay inside metal-bodied (hard top) vehicles or caravans but don’t touch any metal sections.
  • If swimming, surfing etc. leave the water immediately.
  • If boating, go ashore to shelter as soon as possible.
  • Be sure the mast and stays of a sailing boat are adequately ‘grounded’ to the water.

After the storm passes

  • Beware of fallen power lines, damaged buildings and trees and flooded watercourses.
  • Listen to your portable radio for Severe Thunderstorm Warning updates.
  • Check for damaged windows, walls, or roof. Temporarily cover with plastic sheeting and nailed on wooden strips.
  • For emergency assistance, contact your local emergency services call 132 500.
    If you don’t need help, check, and if necessary, help your neighbours. Don’t go sight-seeing.

Source: Emergency Management Australia

Further information

Severe Thunderstorms - facts, warning, protection, Emergency Management Australia Publication