Blackouts, widespread damage as another hailstorm hits Riverland

Homeowners, growers and business operators are again counting the cost after a hail storm smashed the Riverland and Murray Mallee regions for the second time in just over a week.

Key points:Winds of up to 100kph in Renmark bring trees downGrowers report significant damage to grapevinesSA government says support options are being assessed

More than 4,000 homes and businesses in Renmark and Paringa lost power when wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour caused widespread damage from around 4pm on Saturday.

Trees were uprooted and powerlines went down, while flash flooding inundated buildings.

The severe weather caused further damage to crops and businesses which were still recovering from storms that ravaged the region on October 28.

Rows of grape vines stripped of leaves and bunches with water on the ground.
Grapegrowers have been left devastated by the damage.(Supplied)

SES volunteers busy through night

The Bureau of Meteorology officially reported 15.8mm of rain in Renmark, though many residents collected more in their rain gauges.

By Monday afternoon 254 homes between Lyrup and Renmark were still without power.

The State Emergency Service attended 116 jobs throughout the region, 78 of which were in Renmark. 

SES Riverland district officer Fred Brehin said they were busier on one night than they usually were throughout the whole year. 

"I'm really proud of the work that the crews did, including MFS and CFS assisting … they all just got in together and made things work," he said.

A large tree fallen in front of a building
The SES received dozens of calls after the storm and was assisted by CFS and MFS crews.(Supplied: Kazza Frahn)

Growers and businesses affected

For some local farmers and growers, it was the second damaging storm in less than two weeks.

Barmera grapegrower for Ricca Terra Farms, Ashley Ratcliff, said it was gut-wrenching to see the damage to their produce. 

"The vineyard that got hit hardest was the one with all of our alternative varieties which is … I wouldn't say a write-off, but it's not far off of it," he said. 

Local shopping precinct Renmark Square flooded and lost power and centre manager Kristy Wundenberg said shops were not able to open on Sunday, except Woolworths which traded but without cold or frozen produce.

A smashed McDonald's sign lying on the ground
The main road into Renmark was littered with fallen branches and signage.(ABC Riverland: Catherine Zengerer)

Nearby, Wills and Co Mitre 10 in Renmark flooded and was out of power for much of Sunday.

Co-owner Joshua Wills said the damage at his business was substantial.

"We had some water coming in through the roof throughout the storms, we did get some flooding through the store. 

"We were about ankle-deep in water at the front of our store." 

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Mallee Estate Wines along Renmark Avenue experienced flooding in its kitchen and restaurant. 

Owner Jim Markeas said they had to dispose of stock as a result of power loss. 

"Everything that was prepared for the Saturday night and Sunday trade has gone to waste now." 

He said while an insurance claim had been lodged, he would appreciate government support to help with immediate losses.

"When you've had a loss of income, you need to replace it there and then."

A lake with grassed areas and people walking and the sky showing an approaching storm
The approaching storm on Saturday afternoon at Lake Bonney in Barmera.(Supplied: Jenny Sutton)

Support for the region 

It is unclear what government support will be available for Riverland businesses and growers who have been affected by the recent storms. 

Primary Industries Minister David Basham said the situation was still being assessed.

"We need to get that data in to know exactly what we are dealing with," he said.

"We're also continuing to work with the federal government to see what part they play."

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Posted 8 Nov 20218 Nov 2021Mon 8 Nov 2021 at 6:15amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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