Wild storms bring floods, felled trees, Free Willy

Jacob Shteyman |

Wild storms and damaging winds have felled trees across Adelaide.
Wild storms and damaging winds have felled trees across Adelaide.

Wild storms have left thousands of homes without power, downed trees and flooded streets across Adelaide.

After a busy day of rescues, State Emergency Service crews still had their hands full as they chased down an errant whale making a swim for the freedom of Gulf St Vincent.

Moby Dick, a beloved Christmas decoration at the Riverbank Christmas Lights Display on the River Torrens, broke loose from his moorings earlier on Tuesday and sailed about 1km downstream before coming to ground at a bend in the river.

Whale Xmas decoration washed down the River Torrens
The Moby Dick Christmas decoration was washed down the River Torrens in a severe storm. (Jacob Shteyman/AAP PHOTOS)

Remarkably, it was the whale’s second bid for freedom after he attempted a similar escape during another severe storm in 2005.

SES media officer John Merriman said workers had secured the stray cetacean and would come back on Wednesday with a crane to return him to his rightful place alongside the rest of the display.

His rescue came after emergency services responded to 280 requests for assistance, mainly across Adelaide and the Mount Lofty Ranges, following heavy rain and wild winds.

Rain gauges in parts of the city collected more precipitation than usually falls throughout the  month of November.

Scotch College in Adelaide’s south recorded 75mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am, while wind gusts of 72km/h were recorded at the airport.

Flights were grounded until 8.30am after lightning strikes prevented staff from stepping on to the tarmac to load and refuel aircraft.

Two flights were cancelled as the airport worked through a backlog of delays, Adelaide Airport executive general manager Dermot O’Neill said.

More than 1000 customers were still without power as of 5.30pm local time after nearly 30,000 customers had been impacted, SA Power Networks said.

The outages were mainly caused by 155,000 lightning strikes recorded since midnight.

Severe thunderstorm warnings for heavy rainfall and damaging winds remained in place for parts of the Flinders, Mid North, Riverland and North East Pastoral districts.

SES State Duty Officer Brenton Clarke said requests for flood assistance were the most common calls received by emergency services.

Houses were being inundated by water coming across roads and through roofs, Mr Clarke told Adelaide radio 5AA.

Although weather conditions have improved and flood waters have receded, the SAS said some risks may still be present and advised residents to take care.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting sunny conditions for Adelaide for the rest of the week, but residents in Queensland and NSW have been warned to prepare themselves for a battering as the storms sweep east.