At least three people died following a deluge that brought chaos to Australia’s largest city Wednesday.
The downpours during Sydney’s morning commute shut down roads and snarled traffic, while strong winds knocked out power to thousands.
News.com.au described it as “a storm of epic proportions” and reported that officials conducted more than a dozen high-water rescues resulting from stranded vehicles.
Sydney received 3.3 inches (84.6 millimeters) of rain in less than two hours — more than its typical output for the entire month of November, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Several locations measured upward of 4 inches (100 millimeters) of rain.
It was Sydney’s wettest November day since 1984, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
While flooding rain was the most widespread hazard, reports emerged of damaging winds. During the storm, an office building’s windows were blown out by a “mini cyclone” according to ABC News Australia.
The storminess was spurred by a strong zone of low pressure, both at the surface and higher altitudes. The clockwise flow around the pressure system drew extremely moist air off the South Pacific Ocean into Sydney, fueling the downpours.
While Sydney was soaked by rain caused by the low-pressure system, a dome of high pressure over the northern part of Australia caused extreme heat, especially over northern Queensland, where records were set.
“Temperatures have been 5 to 10 degrees Celsius above average and some records have not just been broken, they have been smashed,” reported ABC News Australia.
The extreme heat intensified brushfires in the region. About 200 are burning in Queensland, and for the first time, a catastrophic fire warning was issued for parts of the region.