Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tornados in Australian Capital Cities

The tornado in the Sydney suburb of Hornsby earlier in November 2013 generated widespread discussion about tornados that we sometimes see in Australia. In fact we do see them quite often but happily not with the same frequency and intensity as those experienced in the United States.

It is a little known statistic that every capital city in Australia has experienced at least 1 tornado since the beginning of the 20th century and this list makes interesting reading.  


On June 11th 1931 a violent tornado carved a path of destruction through North Adelaide. People were injured and several houses destroyed in the general area. In addition many trees were blown over and there were widespread power outages as wires were torn down in the maelstrom. After travelling several kilometres in a southeast direction the twister blew itself out just to the east of Adelaide Zoo.

Above: Some of the damage produced by the Adelaide tornado of 1931.

On March 27th 1906 a tornado blasted across North Sydney, producing widespread destruction across the area. One person was killed and more than 100 houses were seriously damaged or totally destroyed. From analysis of photographic evidence it seems likely that this was the most intense tornado ever recorded in the Sydney area.

Above: A newspaper account of the North Sydney tornado of 1906.

On 2nd February 1918 two tornados moving across Port Phillip Bay struck the bayside suburb of Brighton, before moving inland. Two people were killed and numerous homes destroyed, with the estimated wind speeds generated around 250 km/hr.

Left: A local church destroyed by the tornado in Brighton on 2nd February 1918. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

On November 9th 2012, three weak tornados were reported in the Hobart area. These were associated with an outbreak of severe thunderstorms over southeast Tasmania, with hail and heavy rain also occurring. Only localised damage was reported.

On the 4th November 1973 a tornado blasted across the western and southern suburbs of Brisbane on a track over 50 km in length.  Rated as one of Australia’s most damaging twisters it produced severe damage with 500 houses unroofed and nearly 1400 badly damaged.

On Friday 17th December 1943 a tornado swept across the foot of Mount Ainslie, to the northeast of the city centre, uprooting hundreds of trees. Some minor damage was reported on the fringes of the twister, around Turner, Braddon and Ainslie. 

Left: Contemporary newspaper article describes the Canberra tornado.

A severe thunderstorm with an accompanying tornado struck Perth at 8 am on Wednesday May 3 1905. A number of buildings in Murray and Hay streets were heavily damaged.

On Wednesday 8th April 1931 a tornado and waterspout struck Darwin, producing widespread damage to housing and infrastructure. Many trees were uprooted and telegraph wires were blown down for a considerable distance inland.

Without doubt this list will be added to in the future.

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