Everyone knows Geelong is a windy place. Close to the coast and without sheltering hills, often the prevailing northwesterlies and southwesterlies are created by isobaric pressure gradients associated with low pressure systems south of Tasmania.
While the inner urban areas are usually better-sheltered, some suburbs are more at risk than others. The outer western fringes of suburbs such as Bell Post Hill, Hamlyn Heights, Highton and Wandana Heights suffer most in strong winds, while outer Grovedale and the exposed hilltop at Leopold and most of the Bellarine Peninsula can also be very windy.
August is one of the windiest months of the year, and while the month may not be known for its heavy rains (although 155 mm did fall in 1951) or its other weather features, it is the wind storms which have created most problems.
August 1991 was a particularly bad time. On the 5th over $4 million damage was caused by hurricane-force winds over 120 kph through the urban area and peninsula. Although short-lived, the storm peeled off house roofs, caused power blackouts, brought down trees and damaged yachts and caravans at Clifton Springs.
Just ten days later, on the night of the14th-15th, three seamen were swept to their deaths in the Rip when huge freak waves reported by the Geelong Advertiser as “up to 16 metres high” were reported off Queenscliff. A furious storm gusting at over 40 knots (74 kph) did the damage.
Normally a 40 knot wind will generate waves up to about 8 metres on the open sea, with most around five or six, but occasionally, as on this occasion, a gigantic, “perfect storm” type rogue wave will be created.