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Melbourne mops up after "beast" storm

Published: 5:43AM Monday March 08, 2010 Source: AAP

High winds and yet more rain are set to sweep Victoria on Monday as State Emergency Service volunteers battle to mop up after a wild weekend of heavy rain and large hail.

The big storms that have battered Melbourne are expected to ease off overnight, but heavy rain is still expected, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) says.

"We're not out of the woods yet," senior BoM forecaster Peter Blake said on Sunday.

"The storms have calmed down quite a bit but there will be periods of heavy rainfall throughout the night.

"There is still a chance we will see some severe storms at first light on Monday."

A further 50mm of rain was expected in Melbourne overnight, with winds of up to 90km/h across the state on Monday.

Eighty State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers have been sent from NSW and South Australia as Melbourne counts the cost of the once-in-a-century "beast" of a hailstorm that flooded roads and buildings and left thousands of people in the CBD stranded on Saturday afternoon.

The SES was called to 5300 jobs between Saturday and Sunday evening, the vast majority from the central Melbourne area.

"We are working absolutely flat out with a backlog of 2000 jobs," SES spokeswoman Simone Myers said.

"Our volunteers will be out working until 1am (AEDT) on Monday morning and will be back out at 6am (AEDT) to continue to repair damage to property."

More calls are expected as Labor Day long weekend holiday-makers return to their homes on Monday.

Wangaratta, in the state's northeast, recorded 68mm of rain, with 53mm of rain at Mernda in Melbourne's north over a three-hour period on Sunday afternoon as a massive storm front drifted south across the state.

At South Morang, near Mernda, part of a roof at an aged care home, forcing staff to shift residents to another part of the centre.

Emergency services are appealing to home-owners to stay off their roofs after five men were injured in separate incidents on Sunday.

Five men fell off roofs and ladders in Melbourne's eastern suburbs as they attempted to fix roofs and gutters, Ambulance Victoria spokesman Ray Rowe said.

"We are asking people to be very careful and, if possible, get a professional in to do the work rather than go up on roofs themselves," Rowe said.

None of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening.

Meanwhile 11 families in Melbourne have had to be relocated following the storm, together with four from Warragul and Traralgon in Gippsland.

At the height of the emergency on Saturday, power was cut to 100,000 homes, and 100 traffic lights were disabled, causing traffic chaos.

BoM forecaster Kevin Parkyn said the storm brought hailstones the size of lemons in an event perhaps not seen since early last century.

"The weather system that brought the damage to Melbourne is known in meteorological terms as a supercell thunderstorm, an organised beast of a storm that, once it gets going, tends to last more than your average thunderstorm," he said.

The insurance industry has opened 24-hour hotlines for people affected by the storms.

There is no official estimate of the damage bill.

Melbourne's major train hub, Southern Cross Station, had its roof punctured by the hail and the National Gallery of Victoria was also flooded.