Tornadoes in Western Australia
The South Perth Tornado, 15th July 1996
On Monday 15th July, the forecast was for a strong cold front to move through Perth metropolitan area sometime after lunch, and before early evening. The front crossed the coast at around 4.00p.m. Severe weather conditions were forecast for that night, with strong winds, heavy showers and the possibility of thunderstorms.
At approximately 8.40p.m. a squall line moved through the metropolitan area. Accompanied by a severe thunderstorm, which spawned one tornado in suburban Perth. Its is believed that the tornado touched down right on Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Shenton Park, as there was some structural damage to the hospital on the Kings Park side but no evidence of damage on the western side. Unfortunately the tornado occurred at night so there are no known photos of the tornado. I found it surprising to find out of only one witness, a nurse at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital reported seeing a "black funnel" move up through the car park and into Kings Park. The tornado occurred at approx. 8:45p.m. so many people would have still been up and South Perth is a highly populated area with well lit streets so I found it unusual to hear of no other witnesses. Several trees were pulled down in the car park of the hospital and some cars were damaged. The tornado then moved through Kings Park in a relatively straight line where it caused extensive damage to vegetation. Many large trees were either snapped off, defoliated, or uprooted.
Click here to see tree damage in Kings Park.
Click here to see house and flat damage in Mill Point rd.
The tornado left Kings Park and crossed the Swan River. It is not known if the funnel was down as a waterspout as it crossed the river or not as there was no witnesses. It crossed back onto land again in South Perth, which is where most of the damage occurred. Houses along Mill Point Road were hardest hit, at least two houses were totally destroyed. A block of flats in Mill Point rd had its roof totally torn off, some parts of which were carried some 300 meters and deposited in a car park. Also a charity collection bin was picked up and it and its contents deposited along a 200m path. 30 houses were damaged, 15 of which could not have the power restored, as the damage was too severe. 22 people were evacuated from their homes and 33 sets of traffic lights were blacked out. Other damage included numerous fences knocked down, power lines snapped, power poles snapped off and brick walls knocked down. The damage bill is estimated to exceed 20 million dollars.
The thunderstorm that spawned this tornado was not a supercell. The Perth Weather Bureau told me that no mesocyclones or even rotation was evident on their radar. But based on its speed the Weather Bureau estimated that the tornado began forming somewhere over Rottnest Island. The tornado was classed by the bureau as a F-0 / T-2 tornado. The tornado's speed along the ground is estimated to be approx. 80 km/h. The tornado's path was about 4 km long and 50m wide.
There was one more point of interest for me involving this tornado. At the time the tornado occurred I was staying at John's house. We had been getting some strong wind gusts but at around 8:45p.m. a large gust all of a sudden came up. It was quite strong and it made us stand up and take notice. We looked outside. The pergola out the back was shaking around quite a bit and I thought it would take off. John and I looked at each other and went "boy, that's some wind". Blue sparks from power lines came flashing over into the neighbour's yard. Considering Johns house backs onto a lane-way the closest power lines are actually one block away, so this was a fair gust. John's place received fence damage, as did his neighbour who had to replace theirs. At the time we did not know that a tornado had occurred but when we found out we sure were surprised. John lives on Shepperton rd and if you continue drawing a straight line over the tornado's path for about another kilometre from the last known point of damage it passes right over John's house. We believe that the wind we felt was the dissipating tornado. Oh for another 30 seconds on the ground. : )