Wall collapses as wild winds wreak havoc: photos

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1pm: The State Emergency Service has answered more than 800 calls for help this week - and is expecting more over the weekend.

‘‘Over the previous 24-hour period we had approximately 180 calls for help, bringing our total for the Illawarra and South Coast to approximately 800 calls for assistance since Monday,’’ SES acting deputy region controller Alex McFadden said.

The forecast for the weekend is for 25-40km/h winds on Saturday and, on Sunday, wind speeds could reach as high as 55km/h. Read more here.

10.15am:  

9.30am: Damaging winds up to 65km/h - with peak gusts of 90km/h - are forecast for the Illawarra on Thursday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said a weaker cold front moved through Victoria overnight and will bring strong to gale force winds to the higher parts of the southeast during Thursday. The gales will combine with snowfall over the Snowy Mountains to produce blizzard conditions.

EARLIER: A man suffered head and chest injuries when a wall collapsed on him in the  Southern Highlands as high winds hit parts of NSW.

The man in his 50s was trapped for more than 1 hours after a wall fell in Cavendish Street, Mittagong, just after midday on Wednesday, an Ambulance NSW spokesman said.

Emergency crews, including the State Emergency Service (SES), arrived at about 12.20pm to help free him.

The man was flown to Liverpool Hospital in a serious but stable condition, emergency services said.

Meantime, the SES has responded to more than 1000 calls for help since high winds hit NSW on Tuesday.

State Emergency Services crews spent Wednesday mopping up after a wild night where 100km/h-plus winds hit the region.

On Tuesday night strong winds lashed the region, with Albion Park recording wind gusts of up to 115 km/h at 4.15pm and 113 km/h gusts hit Bellambi Point at 7:30pm.

Kiama and Nowra saw gusts hitting 105 km/h and 91 km/h gusts at 6:15pm.

The winds felled trees and damaged power lines in all areas along the Illawarra and South Coast, but an SES spokesman said the ‘‘bigger-impacted areas’’ were Wollongong City, Kiama, Shellharbour and Coniston.

The spokesman said the SES received 619 calls for assistance from 4pm on Tuesday and, at 11am on Wednesday, there were still 300 outstanding jobs.

‘‘Most of the calls came through between four and six o’clock last night when people were coming home,’’ the spokesman said on Wednesday.

‘‘As it starts to get dark you don’t get to see that much, but as the winds started to pick up later at night and people would hear branches cracking, people will go out and do a bit more investigation and start putting some more jobs in.’’

To help with the backlog of jobs, at least eight crews from outside the region were in the Illawarra yesterday cleaning up the damage, which largely consisted of dealing with fallen or damaged trees.

‘‘We’re not really seeing too much in terms of major damage to houses,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘A lot of it is things like sheds or pergolas.’’

The spokesman said the volume of calls decreased on Wednesday morning but crews were expecting more in the afternoon.

‘‘They’ve eased off a little bit due to the weather but with the potential forecast for strong winds later this afternoon we are expecting them to increase again,’’ he said.

‘‘If people need help we encourage them to call the SES on 132 500.’’

On Wednesday morning, the Bureau of Meteorology issued another weather warning for the Illawarra with  damaging winds expected to reach 60 to 60km/h and gusts of 90 to 100km/h.

The winds also saw thousands of homes lose power, as falling trees brought down power lines.

An Endeavour Energy spokeswoman said that, at one stage, 5274 homes in the Illawarra were without power and 3569 in the Shoalhaven.

The spokeswoman said all but 900 of those homes had their power restored by 8am Wednesday with work continuing throughout the day on the remaining homes.

The winds caused no deaths and a Wollongong Hospital spokeswoman said no-one reported to the emergency department with injuries that were caused by the strong winds.

• The clean-up as it happened

• Albion Park customer stranded

Storm smashes wind energy records

Australia’s wind energy records have been blown away by the wintry storm that ripped through the country’s south-east, with turbines supplying almost one-fifth of the electricity at its peak.

Total wind energy supplied to the states of NSW, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria reached a record 2598-megawatt at 10.30pm according to National Electricity Market data analysed by Pitt & Sherry. That supply met 14.9 per cent of total demand.

Wind’s share was even higher at 4.30am, with 19.2 per cent of the market, said Hugh Saddler, Pitt & Sherry’s principal consultant.

“The four-state value was about 10 per cent above the previous highest value, which was in October 2013,” Dr Saddler said.

According to the Clean Energy Council’s latest annual report, wind power from Australia’s 68 wind farms supplied about 4 per cent of total demand last year.

South Australia is home to about 37 per cent of the country’s wind farms – hence the surge of supply on Monday evening as the storm system headed eastwards on its way to Melbourne and then Sydney.

Tuesday’s total wind supply for the four states fell only slightly shy of Monday’s total, Dr Saddler said.

Renewable energy is a hotly debated topic in Canberra, with a handpicked government panel now considering whether to weaken or scrap the mandatory Renewable Energy Target (RET).  

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said the RET is costly to households, although research commissioned by the review panel indicates consumers will actually benefit after 2020 if more renewable energy is added to supply.

Hydro power plants were also operating at high levels on Monday, particularly in Tasmania. As a result, the total renewable share of demand reached nearly 44 per cent during the 6 pm trading Interval across the four states - also likely to be a record, Dr Saddler said.

Peak reached?

Preliminary figures also indicate that Monday was the peak winter day for power demand in the four states so far this winter, Dr Saddler said.

“The winter peaks nearly always occur during the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July, on wet and windy evenings, so if we don’t get another day like (Tuesday) in the next three weeks, that could be the winter peak for the year,” he said. 

“The numbers are quite a bit below last winter’s peaks for NSW, Victoria and South Australia,” he said.

Electricity demand has been falling in recent years as big industrial users such as the Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter close. Consumers have also responded to higher electricity prices by cutting demand and also taking up more energy-efficient appliances. 

- PETER HANNAM

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