Fires, gales cause Valley havoc

EMERGENCY services were kept busy answering calls around the Hunter Valley over the weekend. The Hunter's State Emergency Service (SES) responded to 29 calls between 5pm on Saturday and early yesterday morning. Temperatures soared above 40 degrees but a dramatic change on Saturday afternoon brought thunderstorms. Scorching temperatures were believed to have ignited several fires in the Hunter as ferocious winds hit Cessnock, Newcastle, Singleton, Millfield, Cooranbong and Lake Macquarie. Mount Vincent, near Mulbring, seemed to bear the brunt of the storm, which tore off roofs, littered paddocks with debris and caused the death of a horse, Cessnock State Emergency Service controller Trevor Milgate said.An awning attached to a property in Leggetts Drive, Mount Vincent, was strewn across a neighbouring paddock.The force of the wind removed a large section of the home's roof.A garage in Mulbring collapsed onto the owner's vehicle and severe winds blew the debris into a nearby paddock, injuring the family's horse, Mr Milgate said.The horse later died.A cross on the Holy Family Church in Merewether was damaged on Saturday when struck by lightning. Firefighters attending a fire at Wondabyne, near Woy Woy on Saturday were angered to find their trucks had been vandalised.They returned with National Parks and Wildlife Service officers at 10pm to find graffiti sprayed on the trucks.Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Brett Delaney said temperatures were expected to rise again to 30 degrees later this week, and the Hunter could expect warm weather to continue into February and March.

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