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Tornadoes of Australia and New Zealand
Tornadoes of Australia
Australia is another nation where tornado numbers may be greatly underestimated, here due to the vast expanse of poorly populated land on which many may occur. Research into the extent and conditions for tornadoes in Australia is, like that in many nations except the US and Canada, in its infancy. The preliminary numbers suggest an average of 20 tornadoes per year in Australia. Tornadoes have accounted for about 55 deaths since 1918.
Tornadoes are most frequently reported in New South Wales, southern Queensland and southwestern Australia — along the coastal strip south from Perth to Cape Leeuwin and inland. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology database lists 364 tornadoes across New South Wales from 1795 to June 2003, and 173 reported tornadoes from 1901 to 1966. Most New South Wales tornadoes occur in late spring and summer.
Since few tornadoes strike populated areas of Australia, the deadliest tornado in the nation's history tallied 3 deaths. This storm struck Kin Kin (a small community between Gympie and Noosa) in southern Queensland on 14 August 1971.
Two tornadoes tie for the second spot on Australian deadliest tornadic event list, each taking two lives. The first event hit the community of Brighton, New South Wales on the late afternoon of 2 February 1918. There, a trio of tornadoes crossed the bayside suburb of Melbourne in a "veritable orgy of destruction." Many buildings were totally destroyed in the community before the tornadoes moved into the open countryside. The second storm hit the tiny farming hamlet of Sandon on 13 November 1976. The Sandon tornado (likely an F3 or a strong F2) killed a couple caught by the fierce winds in their automobile.
Australia's strongest documented tornado raced by the town of Bulahdelah, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north-northeast of Newcastle, New South Wales on January 1, 1970. This powerful twister cut a path 21 kilometres (13 miles) long and 1-1.6 kilometres (0.6-1 miles) wide through the Bulahdelah State Forest. Official estimates suggest that over a million trees were destroyed. Eyewitness reports say the winds lifted a two-ton tractor and threw it 100 metres (328 ft). From damage analysis, the storm was believed to be an F4 and possibly an F5 in strength. Another tornado also lays claim to the strongest title. It struck Bucca, west of Bundaberg (Queensland), on 29 November 1992 and was also given an F4 rating.
The most costly tornadic storm raced 51 km (30 miles) through Brisbane's western and southern suburbs on the afternoon of 4 November 1973. Nearly 1400 buildings were damaged and many were injured, though none fatally. Winds were estimated at over 250 km/h (156 mph) and perhaps as high as 300 km/h (187 mph), putting it in the F3 category.
Tornadoes of New Zealand
New Zealand experiences, on average, about 20 damaging tornado events each year. The tornadoes are typically very narrow and have short tracks. Most are in the F0 to F2 range.
Most tornadoes in New Zealand have been reported in the North Island, particularly around the Bay of Plenty and down to Auckland. About 17 tornadoes have been reported in this small but populated region. Another concentration of tornadic activity is found on the western coast of Taranaki near New Plymouth, where 12 tornadoes struck between 1961-1975.
New Zealand's worst tornado struck the community of Frankton then moved into neighbouring Hamilton on 25 August 1948. The twister killed 3 and injured 80 others. The tornado winds lifted buildings, snapped off chimneys, unroofed houses, and uprooted trees. The air was reportedly filled with flying corrugated iron, branches of trees, timber and other debris. Rated an F2, the tornado damaged or destroyed 163 buildings and 50 businesses.
Discussions of tornadoes for the five continents are given elsewhere on this site:
Tornadoes of Europe
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