Bendigo Tornado

18th May 2003


Images Rod Aikman - 2003


   Debris - Bendigo A debarked paperbark Debarked tree
An uprooted tree

Images Clyve Herbert - 2003



Images Mike Scull - 2003


A supercell in the Bendigo area on the following day (19th May)

A supercell captured in the area on the day after the Bendigo tornado - 19th May

Image Clyve Herbert - 2003


Report and observations from Bendigo: courtesy Kevin Parkyn (Monday 19th May 2003) - Bureau of Meteorology - Severe Weather section

I was able to interview a BoM storm spotter in Bendigo who saw the tornado. He was less than 200 metres from the tornado, which extended from a very low cloud base to the ground. He said it could have been up to 100 metres in width. He said the tornado was very clear as it was so dark with loads of debris. He also commented that as he watched the storm approach from the northwest that the cloud structure was such that it looked as if it had 'rotating swirls'.

From an assessment of the damage path that I undertook yesterday I would say that much of the damage was consistent with F1 on the Fujita scale, however I was surprised at the smaller pockets of damage, such as trees uprooted and eucalyptus trees near 1 metre in diameter being totally snapped in half - leading me to suggest the tornado could have reached the lower end of the F2 scale. Perhaps one of the most astonishing bits of damage I saw was a beam of wood (100mmx200mmx6000mm - required 4 men to lift) from the roof of a house that was thrown in the opposite direction from the storm movement across the road and fortunately landed in a bit of vacant land. For me this was a sign of the enormous energy this tornado must have had - Incidently it was not far from where I believe the tornado initially touched down.

The most serious damage could be confined to a width of 50 to 100 metres that extended for almost 7 km across the northern suburbs of Bendigo.

Although I haven't done a comprehensive analysis of the volumetric radar my initial assessment of the event is that a supercell spawned the tornado. Interestingly the cell on radar lasted for around 2 hours, however the structure from radar is hard to interpret due to the distance from the radar - also the Dividing Range combined with the earth's curvature means that the lower portions of the cell cannot be obtained.

From a meteorological perspective there was certainly enough shear in the lowest 10000ft for storm organisation, yet the CAPE was lower and 'skinny'. In fact it probably has more charactersitics of a 'coldie' than a warm season severe thunderstorm - perhaps a hybrid!

I heard Rod Aikman interviewed on ABC Radio and thought that he was 'sensational'.

4pm MSL chart 1830 Infrared satellite image
Victorian infrared satellite loop 09Z (7pm) Colour infrared image
further information and images will be added as they come to hand....

if you have any information, photographs or video concerning this event, please contact Jane at

Bendigo Advertiser Newspaper Articles (scanned)

.. Bendigo Advertiser - aerial view new01.gif (172 bytes)

.. Bendigo Advertiser - including Rod Aikman (ASWA) article new01.gif (172 bytes)

... Bendigo Advertiser new01.gif (172 bytes)

... Bendigo Advertiser - damage path new01.gif (172 bytes)


Stories in the Press

...Bendigo Advertiser

...Herald Sun

Historical notes

Other Tornadoes to have affected the Bendigo urban area

With thanks to the Bureau of Meteorology for the use of the images and the Bendigo Advertiser, Shawn Smits, Mike Scull, Rod Aikman, Kevin Parkyn, Andrew McDonald, Clyve Herbert.

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