Travellers heading for Sydney Airport yesterday abandoned their cars up to a kilometre from their destination and trudged or jogged to the terminal lugging suitcases after a tornado slammed into the area followed by an enormous “supercell thunderstorm”.
Driven by winds of up to 213 km/h, some of the fastest ever recorded in Sydney, the storm bombarded suburbs with hailstones the size of golf balls and flooded roads. The tornado at its front blew roofs off houses and flipped vehicles. Some houses at Kurnell, near the airport, were blown to pieces. Shoppers were evacuated from Westfield Bondi Junction when the storm pounded in part of the roof, more than 20,000 homes and businesses were left without power and the winds were termed the most destructive recorded in NSW history.
A caller to 702 ABC Sydney reported “mayhem” at Sydney airport when he had dropped someone off about 11am.
“Because of all the traffic delays there at the moment everyone is getting out of their cars within a kilometre or so of the airport and just wheeling their luggage towards the airport to make their flights,” the caller said.
“I’m just really fearful for these people because they are out there in the open”.
Numerous flights were delayed, including those departing for Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Canberra. At least two international flights bound for Sydney were diverted to Brisbane with other flights diverted to Newcastle, Canberra and Melbourne.
China Airlines flight CI051 and Air New Zealand flight NZ105 were approaching Sydney before being redirected to Brisbane to avoid the wild weather, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“Sydney’s weather has disrupted the entire national flight network,” Leonie Vondezen, spokeswoman for Brisbane Airport Corporation told ABC News.
“Sydney is Australia’s major international airport but, with weather like this, we expect flights to continue to be diverted throughout the rest of the day to avoid Sydney’s weather.”
At least four Sydney-bound Qantas flights – QF420, QF422, QF426, QF430 – were delayed in Melbourne. Virgin flights VA837, VA841 and VA845 were delayed, as was Jetstar flight JQ508. Airlines tried to keep in touch with customers through email and texts. As with all such disruptions, delays fed throughout the network.
In the early afternoon, media reported that all flights had been grounded ahead of a severe thunderstorm forecast to hit Sydney Airport, while all flights scheduled to land in Sydney had been diverted to airports elsewhere in Australia.
A little later, Marissa Pace asked on Twitter: “Is anyone else stuck on the Tarmac at #sydneyairport? We’re in #ac034 [Air Canda flight 034] for the last 2 hours and haven’t even been offered water!”
Written by Peter Needham