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Hail as winter blasts city

An Antarctic blast has delivered snow to Victoria’s alpine regions today and plunged parts of the state into a grey, wintry and wet Easter Monday.

With the start of the ski season still two months away, Mount Baw Baw and Mount Buller were treated to an early taste of winter when the mercury dipped below freezing today and light snow began falling on the resorts.

Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Peter Newham said snow was expected to fall down to 1000 metres today, with some sleet down to 800 metres. Snow was already falling at Falls Creek and could also fall at other alpine areas, including Mount Hotham.

In Melbourne, the temperature hit 13 degrees at 8am today and barely moved during the morning, reaching 14.3 degrees at noon.

But those venturing outside would have felt the icy southerly wind, which plunged the apparent temperature down to 6.5 degrees.

At the MCG this afternoon, Hawthorn players warming up for their clash with Geelong at 3.10pm were forced to abandon their pre-match session when a hailstorm hit the ground.


Large hailstones reportedly turned the ground into a sea of white and drenched football fans waiting for the match to begin. The short but fierce storm quickly subsided.

The cold spell followed much warmer conditions late last week, when the mercury hit 28 degrees in Melbourne and higher in north-west Victoria.

"We had a mild to warm spell last week but this significant cold front has come through now," Mr Newham said.

"The initial cold front came through on Friday and this is a follow-up front that has got even colder air behind it.

"It wasn’t a well-defined shift to colder air, it has been a gradual shift overnight and during the morning as colder and colder air has come up from the south. We've got south-west to southerly winds developing and it’s bringing colder air from well south of Australia."

But don’t dust off those skis and snowboards just yet.

Mr Newham said the weather would gradually warm over the next few days, culminating in sunny skies and temperatures of 26 degrees on Friday and Saturday in Melbourne.

Mildura is forecast to hit a maximum of 30 degrees on Saturday, Swan Hill a top of 29 degrees and Echuca 27 degrees.

In other weather news, a Virgin Australia plane is being inspected by engineers this afternoon after it was struck by lightning on a flight from Launceston to Melbourne.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said flight DJ1365 landed safely at Melbourne Airport at the scheduled time of 10.50am after being struck during the journey.

"The safety of our aircraft, guests and crew was never in question," the spokeswoman said.

"Modern aircraft are designed to be able to withstand lightning strikes and to continue to operate normally."

However she said it was standard procedure to withdraw the plane from service until it could be assessed by engineers.

"The aircraft is currently being inspected by engineers and is expected to return to service later today," the spokeswoman said.

"As a result, a return Melbourne-Sydney service has been cancelled today. All guests will be reaccommodated on the next available flights."

Meanwhile, the cooler weather has prompted a warning from firefighters as residents pull out their heaters to combat the conditions.

"Many people will be turning on heaters for the first time in six months and it’s important they take a few simple safety precautions," Metropolitan Fire Brigade chief fire officer Rob Taylor said.

The MFB and Country Fire Authority have warned residents to ensure heaters are properly maintained, ensure smoke alarm batteries have been changed and smoke alarms tested, and to keep drying clothes at least one metre from heaters, especially electric bar heaters.

They also warned residents to use fire screens around wood heaters.