Flood, hail, heavy rain, and wind: your complete guide to managing stormy weather

Stormy skies

Nicola Dowse

Posted October 13, 2022

Flooding risks are high across Victoria as Australia’s severe weather season enters full-swing. Know your storm risks and be prepared to help keep you and your property safe.

Authorities and emergency services are urging Victorians to be adequately prepared for storms and floods to keep themselves, their property and their loved ones safe.

Stay up-to-date via the VicEmergency website or app and check VicTraffic for road closures and hazards during storms. Phone VICSES on 132 500 for assistance or Triple 000 in an emergency.

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Cars driving on wet roads at night in Melbourne CBD

Wet weather and storms can pose problems if you're unprepared. Image: Getty. 

Preparing your home for a storm

Even if your home isn’t at risk of flooding, storms can be just as damaging if you’re unprepared with 80 per cent of VICSES callouts each year attributed to storms

If you haven’t done so already, clear your gutters of debris to prevent roof leaks during a downpour. This job can be dangerous, so use safety equipment like gloves and non-slip shoes - or hire a professional to do the task for you. Ensure the gutters are draining away from your home and not pooling in the foundations or in stagnant puddles. Do not attempt to clear your gutters if it is already raining or wet.

Strong winds are possible during storms, and these can fling objects at great speeds and cause damage. Prepare for this eventuality by removing debris from your property that could be harmful (e.g. large branches) and tie down (or take indoors) any outside furniture that could be picked up by strong winds. Shade umbrellas and trampolines in particular are easily thrown by winds.

During the storm stay inside and away from windows. Do not travel if possible – if you must travel, drive to the conditions and beware that landslips, obstacles, mud and reduced visibility is likely when driving. 

Safe driving in wet and stormy conditions

Storms can strike at any time, include while driving. Heavy rain, hail and strong winds can all effect your ability to drive safely.

Extreme weather conditions can reduce your ability to see the road, with drivers advised to slow down and increase their distance from other vehicles if visibility deteriorates.

Turn your headlights on to increase your visibility to other vehicles and avoid using your high beams unless travelling on a dark road with no likely oncoming traffic, such as in the country.

If you can no longer see past your bonnet, then it’s time to pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Pulling into a covered service station or carpark is a good option if available, while parking under trees and powerlines should be avoided at all costs.

Once the storm passes, we’re here to help.

Thunderstorm asthma

Storms can also bring thunderstorm asthma, with those with existing asthma or hay fever most at risk. This weather phenomenon causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing with symptoms potentially life-threatening. 2016, ten people died in Melbourne due to thunderstorm asthma, with hundreds more hospitalised.

The BOM notes that the 2022-2023 severe weather season has the potential for an increased thunderstorm asthma risk if conditions become dry in late spring and early summer.

The VicEmergency app issues alerts for when there is a high risk of thunderstorm asthma occurring. If at risk, do not go outside during alert if possible, close doors and windows, and set air to recirculate if you own an air conditioner.

Carry your asthma or hay fever medication (such as an inhaler or antihistamines) with you. If symptoms become severe, call 000.


How To Clean Your Gutters | RACV

Preparing for a flood and heavy rain

An increased risk of riverine flooding is predicted across northern and eastern Australian, with Victorian water catchments extremely full.

According to the BOM this means that “any rainfall has the potential to lead to widespread flooding” and urges residents to take heed of flood warnings when declared.

One in ten Australian homes are at risk of flooding, with the most at-risk municipalities in Victoria including Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Maribyrnong, Greater Shepparton, Greater Geelong, Greater Bendigo, Frankston, Benalla, Wyndham and Campaspe. You can determine your individual risk by talking to your local floodplain management authority.

Make a plan

Prepare for a flood by creating a plan in advance. This plan should include where you will go if a flood occurs (aim for a location outside the floodplain and on high ground – your local council can tell you any designated evacuation points) and how you will get there, keeping in mind that you should never drive through floodwaters - a car can float in as little as 15 centimetres. Have alternate routes planned in case one is cut off.

Create a kit

Keep an emergency kit handy if you need to evacuate. This kit should live in a waterproof container and include bottled water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, a mobile phone and charger, any regular medications, torches, and a battery-operated radio with spare batteries. Keep your important documents (passports, birth certificates etc) with the kit or close by.

Prepare your home

You can also prepare your home for flooding using plastic sheeting and sandbags at external doorways to help stop water from entering, and use sandbags inside of plastic garbage bags to block drainage holes, including those in your bathroom (e.g. bath, shower and toilet). Lift valuable onto higher surfaces in your home like benches or cupboards, and turn off your gas and electricity.

Be ready to evacuate

If a flood is likely, stay abreast of current flood watch and flood warning alerts as issues by the BOM and emergency services, including the VicEmergency app. These services will tell you if and when you need to evacuate.  

If you’ve had to evacuate due to flooding, make sure you’re prepared for the clean-up process once the water recedes and authorities give you the all clear to return to your property. The toll of flood clean-up can be both mentally and physically exhausting.

Long-term, you may wish to consider retrofitting your house to cope with floods through means like raising the building or using water resistant materials. 


Gumboots standing in flood waters.

There are important home maintenance tasks to do to prepare your home for flooding. Image: Getty. 

The dangers of hail

Like storms, hail is most likely during early spring and summer due to warmer ground temperatures and cooler air in the upper atmosphere. And like storms, hail has the potential to be extremely damaging.

The BOM and VicEmergency app will alert you when hail is possible. If hail is likely, move your car undercover if possible before the weather system hits. If it isn’t, having a hail cover for your car on hand can help minimise damage. If you don’t have a hail cover, you can improvise one using blankets, a tarp or even rubber floor mats in your car.

If you’re out driving when hail strikes, pull into an undercover carpark or covered service station if possible and wait the hail out. If that isn’t possible, slow down, turn your lights on and pull over in a safe location (not under any trees or power lines) if visibility becomes poor. 

Be blackout ready

Blackouts – or power outages – can happen at any time, but are more likely during storms and other extreme weather conditions that can knock down powerlines.

In the event of a blackout, make sure you’ve an emergency kit prepared with batteries, torches and portable power banks. Before a storm it’s a good idea to make sure your phones are fully charged should you lose power as well, and to have a stock of non-perishable food and water on hand. Keep this kit somewhere easily accessible, as you may be looking for it in the dark.

If your power unexpectedly goes out, check out your home’s safety switch and turn off any electronics at the wall to reduce the change of power surges when energy is reconnected.

Try not to open your fridge or freezer as much as possible, as this will help keep food at a safe temperature for as long as possible and reduce wastage. It’s a good idea to note down the time the blackout started so that you can take stock of how long your food has been unrefrigerated once power returns.

Use the VicEmergency app or contact your energy provider to find out more about when power may be restored.


Car hit by hail

If hail is forecast, park your car under cover. Image: Getty. 

Cleaning up after a storm

Once the storm has passed, take some time to check your home and property to see if there’s any damage. Before you start cleaning up debris, make sure to wear protective clothing including closed shoes, gloves and long-sleeve pants.

Be mindful that lingering hazards from the storm, like flood waters, mud and fallen branches are still present and can cause harm. Proceed with absolute caution.

Some of the key things to consider and look out for before entering and inspecting your home for damage, include: 

  • Do you smell gas?
  • Is the power functioning correctly and could there be exposed wiring? 
  • Is anything smoking or smouldering?
  • Have any floors or walls shifted? 

If any of the above is the case, it may be best to call emergency services and get professional assistance. 

Powerlines may also have fallen during a storm. You should always assume fallen power lines are still live, stay at least eight metres from away and never touch them for any reason. Contact your local power provider to notify them of the hazard instead. 

If your home is safe to stay in and you're ready to start cleaning, check out our step-by-step guide to cleaning your home after a flood.

As you clean your home, take mental notes of how you can avoid these issues in the future. 


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