11 December 2023

Inflatable Santas take flight and the lights go out as massive storm rips through the Riverina

| Chris Roe
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The Riverina was treated to a spectacular light show overnight. Photo: Norm Burgoyne.

Mother Nature decided to put the Riverina’s Christmas displays to shame last night with one of the most spectacular light shows in recent memory.

The region had been on alert for severe storms on Sunday afternoon, and after a sweltering through heatwave conditions, the sky opened up and the dial was turned up to 11 as rain, wind and lighting exploded in the late afternoon.

In just 15 minutes, 14.2 mm was recorded at around 9:30 pm near Brucedale, and according to the Bureau of Meteorology, 54.6 mm of rain was recorded at the Wagga airport.

Along with the rain and winds, residents across the Riverina watched in awe as thousands of lightning strikes lit the night sky.

The SES responded to around a dozen calls for help, and there were power outages across much of the region, including Griffith, Narranderra, Leeton, Coolamon and Wagga. More than 4000 homes were left in the dark.

Trees and powerlines came down during the deluge and teams from Essential Energy were still working into the late morning on Monday (11 December) to restore power to some areas.

READ ALSO Wagga residents to flood Lake Albert for New Year’s Eve celebrations

It was a dramatic finale for the hundreds gathered in Wagga’s Victory Memorial Park for the Triple Threat end-of-year dance performance.

Rain began to patter down as the kids were heading into their final numbers at around 6 pm.

As they reached the high point of their performance, the storm hit on cue and, in the words of one young performer, “It was awesome!”

Spectators were less thrilled as they were drenched in seconds and families scattered in all directions, wrangling folding chairs, rugs and children.

There were also anecdotal reports of Santas and snowmen sailing across the skies overnight as poorly tethered inflatable Christmas decorations took flight.

There must be some truth to the rumours as the SES was prompted to issue a reminder to ensure all blow-up Santas are properly secured in the future.

Just before 6 am, the BoM declared that the immediate threat of severe thunderstorms had passed, but the situation will continue to be monitored and further warnings will be issued if necessary.

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