Waterspouts on Burrendong Dam

Recreational boater Mitch Wishart - who has fished and camped at the lake for 15 years - described the storm as unbelievable.
Recreational boater Mitch Wishart - who has fished and camped at the lake for 15 years - described the storm as unbelievable.

A FREAK thunderstorm whipped up three waterspouts and threatened 10 boats caught on the waters of Lake Burrendong on Thursday afternoon.

Recreational boaters on the water during the surprise weather change spotted them before returning to shore, part of what police described overall as a “mini-tornado”.

However Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jake Phillips said initial reports the lake had been hit by a tornado had not yet been confirmed by meteorologists.

Thankfully for Lake Burrendong State Park it was business as usual by yesterday afternoon. There was no need for rescue operations to return to the water yesterday as all 10 boats feared missing were swiftly found by police and volunteer rescue crews by 9pm on Thursday evening.

After 10 hours without power, electricity was restored at 7am and park manager Jason Kirk said it was just a matter of getting the tourist and ratepayer areas back to their previous state.

Mr Kirk said there were predominantly personal costs for campers with their tents and other equipment, but they all still had a job ahead of them.

“Just cleaning up the park, there were trees fallen over, tents and camper trailers shredded everywhere,” he said.

“There were a couple of sore people to be had that’s for sure, but we were very grateful that no-one was hurt or seriously injured.”

The storm ripped through Lake Burrendong and surrounding areas about 5pm, and with the help of a NSW Air Ambulance helicopter everyone was accounted for.

Working inland in similar areas for 15 years, Mr Kirk said he had seen nothing like the storm before.

“We’re just so lucky that there was no real damage,” he said.

Onlookers at the site were just as stunned by the storm, visitor Brad Jenner one who also struggled to comprehend what had happened.

“We had just arrived from the Hunter Valley and were getting ready to cook dinner when the weather turned wild,” he said.

“Hailstones were hitting the ground, as big as golf balls or probably even bigger, unbelievable.”

Police continued to patrol the area into the night, and Acting Inspector Richard Morely said credit was due to all parties.

“Our police officers, the paramedics, SES and volunteer rescue crews were fantastic,” he said.

“This is a huge area to cover, bigger than two or three Sydney Harbours, but everybody worked together.”

Meteorologists were yet to determine if Lake Burrendong had been hit by a tornado, but Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jake Phillips said there were other explanations.

The wild weather may have been caused by a “micro burst” from a type of thunderstorm called a supercell.

“It’s when you get a particularly severe thunderstorm and you get a burst of cold air that comes out of the thunderstorm and rushes towards the ground,” he said.

“Often with supercells, not always but often, we see things like large hail and a lot of wind damage as well as heavy rain.”

There have been no additional weather warnings issued for the area since Thursday night’s events.