Severe thunderstorms hit Sydney amid peak hour traffic chaos
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Severe thunderstorms hit Sydney amid peak hour traffic chaos

Barely a drop of rain fell in Sydney through winter, but the first Friday of spring has delivered a sudden deluge that left roads flooded across the city and backyards blanketed in snow-like hail – just as the evening peak hour hit.

It was a horror trip home, as traffic chaos that began in the early afternoon combined with the severe thunderstorms to bring roads and public transport networks to a soggy standstill.

Shortly after 4pm, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe thunderstorm warning for heavy rainfall, flash flooding, hail and damaging winds across the city and surrounds.

The flash flooding and hail certainly came to pass.

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Roads were left waterlogged – some deeply so – and a snow-like blanketing of small hail stones have been reported several Sydney suburbs, particularly the city's south-west.

In Bankstown, 60mm of rail fell in one hour. That's almost as much as the area received in the last three months.

The thunderstorms are the result of a cold front and trough moving off the coast, quite slowly, according to Weatherzone meteorologist Craig McIntosh.

That means the storms, though scattered, are likely to stick around well into the evening.

"It could be hit and miss, but it looks like the heaviest rain and thunderstorms are skirting along the southern half of the Sydney basin," he said.

Pedestrians brave heavy rain on Friday afternoon.

Pedestrians brave heavy rain on Friday afternoon. Credit:AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Along with hail, Sydneysiders should expect some heavy downpours leading to flash flooding, he said, predicting the peak hour hit.

The storms have caused even more problems for the Friday evening commute, with traffic already at a standstill on the Harbour Bridge after a motorcycle accident closed the Harbour Tunnel southbound before 2pm.

It would be almost five hours before the tunnel reopened.

Police have confirmed the crash took place after a police pursuit, and a critical incident investigation has been launched.

The male rider was treated at the scene and taken to St Vincent's Hospital, where he remains in a critical condition. Nobody else was injured.

Traffic at a standstill on the Harbour Bridge on Friday afternoon.

Traffic at a standstill on the Harbour Bridge on Friday afternoon. Credit:Matthew Whitmore

Lightning strikes affect transport system

Sydney train services are delayed after lightning strikes damaged equipment at Campsie, while urgent track equipment repairs are also under way at St James.

The issue is affecting services on the T3 Bankstown, T2 Inner West and Leppington line, and T8 Airport and South line.

Light rail services are not running between Taverners Hill and Dulwich Hill due to a lightning strike damaging equipment at Dulwich Hill.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, lightning strikes have been hitting at a rate of about 1000 per hour across the city.

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Sydney Airport's domestic terminals are experiencing significant delays as a result of the weather, a spokeswoman for the airport said.

Customers are urged to check with their airlines for updates, she said.

"The airport is continuing to operate as usual. These sorts of weather events are not uncommon but there are delays as a result."

Qantas has cancelled four flights as a result of the weather.

A Qantas spokeswoman said "our operations team, including meteorologists, are continuing to monitor the weather and we thank our customers for their understanding."

For some passengers, delays may be preferable to the heart-stopping thrill of landing or taking off amid frequent lightning strikes.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a writer and editor at Daily Life.