Hills thunderstorms not a bolt from the blue

THE recent thunderstorms have been particularly electrifying.

In The Hills, there were four lightning incidents — that we know of — in two weeks, including one that led to a 65-year-old Baulkham Hills man being hospitalised after he got struck by a thunder bolt on March 7.

Winston Hills Mall shopping centre was struck by lightning in the same storm, destroying an air-conditioning plant and damaging a travelator.

More recently, on March 15, The Hills SES felled a tree in August Place, Rouse Hill.

‘‘It had been struck by lightning,’’ unit controller, Evelyn Lester, said.

‘‘There was no property damage but the tree was felled due to the damage.’’

The unit also attended Jennifer Street, Baulkham Hills, where lightning hit a TV antenna.

‘‘We ended up with 30 jobs, ranging between North Rocks, Rouse Hill, Kellyville, Castle Hill, Kenthurst that weekend,’’ Ms Lester said.

‘‘The Bureau [of Meteorology] did advise last year that we were going into a high level of thunderstorm activity for the next six months.’’

The bureau’s senior climatologist, Agata Imielska, said: ‘‘There’s been a cluster of thunderstorms and that goes for Sydney metro and The Hills.

‘‘We’ve had a few bands of thunderstorms coming from west to east, bringing rain and lightning — the discharge of energy between clouds.

‘‘With more energy you might see a lot more lightning strikers and we have had some fantastic thunder storms that are producing a lot of lighting that will either go cloud to cloud, or you’ll get a cloud to ground strike.’’

The Bureau do not measure lightning strikes but are trialling Thunderstorm Tracker during summer 2013-14 in south-east Queensland.

The automated pilot product shows the location of thunderstorms and their expected position 30 minutes into the future.

It is not a warning.

According to the bureau’s website, Thunderstorm Tracker is based on weather radar data, updated every six minutes.

It looks for areas of intense rainfall in the last two to three radar scans, identifies areas of potential thunderstorm activity and represents the area of activity as ovals.

The arrows show the direction that the thunderstorms are heading and the three curves ahead of each oval show its expected position in 10, 20 and 30 minutes.

Severe thunderstorm warnings

The Bureau of Meteorology issues a severe thunderstorm warning if storms are expected to produce any of the following:

■ Damaging wind gusts (90 km/h or more);

■ Large hail (2cm diameter or more);

■ Very heavy rainfall (conducive to dangerous flash flooding); and/or

■ Tornadoes.

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