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Storm Chase and East Coast Low: Sunday 24th to Monday 25th September 1995
by Michael Bath and Jimmy Deguara

A developing east coast low along the Northern Beaches of Sydney during the afternoon of Sunday 24th September was reason enough for a storm chase. Partly cloudy conditions mid afternoon preceded rapid cloud development. Massive cumulus and stratocumulus streamed in from the east while cumulonimbus developed to the north-west. We headed out to Freemans Reach near Windsor to capture the scene.

Developing clouds during the afternoon of 24th September. Photographs by Jimmy Deguara.

Heavy rain was occurring in some areas from around 5pm with thunder and lightning increasing as it approached the Metropolitan area. We traveled through the area for a while longer, but it was getting too dark and wet to photograph anything else so we headed back.

At around 8pm at Oakhurst a storm cell dumped about 20mm in 10 minutes. Hail and 61mm of rain in 35 minutes was reported in the Wentworthville area from a more intense localized storm. The storms moved in a south-easterly direction. Moderate rain continued through the night with 89mm in my gauge by 9am on the 25th.

The low pressure centre intensified off the coast during the night bringing gale force winds and some heavy falls of rain. During the early morning period (dawn), the sky to the north of the Sydney area was totally free of cloud indicating that the main cloud mass had cleared the coast in that region. However, in the region extending from the south-east to the west and north-west, a cloud band was approaching moving east and slowly enveloping the Sydney region. The stratus clouds were moving ahead of the cloud mass mainly in the region where rain had begun falling. An important clue to indicate that the low was to the east or to the north-east and strengthening was the increasing strength of the southerly winds. It would be interesting to see what the winds were in the Northern Suburbs region at this time at various heights of the atmosphere.

The main cloud band is moving overhead to the northeast with stratus from the south.

Our observations indicate that this approaching cloud band was the back end of the hook circulation of the low. It dumped most of the heavy rain over the western suburbs up to mid-morning. At this stage, brief sunshine occurred allowing the middle level cloud to be observed briefly. It indicates that this band was moving towards the coast. But the southerly airstream persisted dumping more rain to heavy rain but easing and becoming less frequent later.

Media Reports

Gale force winds and torrential rain damaged houses and flooded roads in many areas. Blackouts to about 44,000 homes were caused by the winds which were gusting to over 100km/h. A 40 square metre section of roof was ripped off Central Station.

During the event the State Emergency Service (SES) were called out about 2100 times.

A $10 million damage bill is expected from the storm.

Warragamba's 9000 square kilometre catchment received up to 156mm of rain which boosted the dam level by 10% to about 75% of capacity.

Click here to view the rainfall isohyet map of Sydney for the 48 hours to 9am 26th September 1995

Rainfall Readings for Sydney and Surrounding Areas for the 24 hours to 9am on the 25th and 26th of September 1995

Suburb/Town 25th Sep 26th Sep
Belrose 48 68
Bexley 145 54
Cronulla 156 64
Epping 73 48
Frenchs Forest 43 82
Gordon 65 58
Lucas Heights 148 45
Mosman 49 75
Newport 32 58
Oatley 128 48
Parramatta 110 29
Randwick 69 68
Riverview 87 n/a
Sydney 74 71
Sydney Airport 115 65
Turramurra 74 57
Berowra 46 63
Glenorie 43 46
Liverpool 104 22
Merrylands 112 36
Oakhurst 89 27
Penrith 85 n/a
Richmond 76 31
Seven Hills 112 29
Gosford n/a 78/2
Wyong 32 68
Peats Ridge 36 52
Nobbys Head 12 38
Norah Head 34 50
Mangrove Mt. 41 56
Berry 140 51
Bowral 128 41
Darkes Forest 132 68
Greenwell Point 98 22
Kiama 98 37
Minto 115 n/a
Moss Vale 115 46
Nowra 122 30
Robertson 186 94
Wollongong 95 42
Bodalla 91 0
Candelo 202 0
Blackheath 88 32
Katoomba 104 26
Kurrajong Hts 120 10
Lithgow 46 15
Mt. Boyce 69 25
Oberon 77 3
Springwood 83 7

Synoptic Charts

Synoptic Charts provided by the Bureau of Meteorology

MSL Analysis 1 pm Eastern Standard Time 23rd September

MSL Analysis 1 pm Eastern Standard Time 24th September

MSL Analysis 1 pm Eastern Standard Time 25th September

Document: 9509-02.htm
Updated: 5th April, 2004
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