One dead as winds batter Australia

Strong winds have felled trees across Tasmania, killing a woman and leaving 10,000 homes and businesses without power.

The 63-year-old woman and her husband were clearing trees outside their Launceston house on Thursday when another tree was blown down, trapping her.

The man managed to free his wife but she could not be saved.

More than 10,000 homes and businesses are without power across Tasmania and the SES says its resources are stretched trying to cope.

TasNetworks spokeswoman Ann Kile said more homes are expected to lose power overnight as winds up to 130 km/h are forecast for the state's south.

"There remain a number of wires down, poles down and trees on lines from the earlier storms," Ms Kile said on Thursday night.

More than 21,000 properties were blacked out on Thursday afternoon, mainly across the north of the state.

Tasmania Police Inspector Michael Johnston said people should stay indoors and travel only when it was essential.

"We would urge people who don't need to make a trip tonight to stay at home or stay where they are," Insp Johnston said.

Inspector Johnston said the woman who died and her husband were working outdoors in high winds when the tree came down.

"They had a number of trees fall on their property and they were in the process of clearing those when a further tree fell and struck her," Insp Johnston told reporters.

"She was trapped under the tree, her husband was able to cut some of the tree away and get her out, but unfortunately she was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics."

SES regional manager Mhairi Revie said it was proving difficult to cope with the number of damaged and torn roofs.

"Certainly our resources are stretched," Ms Revie said.

"When it comes to roofing crews, it takes a significant amount of training and expertise to get up onto roofs safely and to conduct their work in this type of environment."

A flight carrying Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey was unable to land in Launceston because of the weather and was diverted to Hobart.

Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey instead took part in the Tasmanian Economic Council meeting via teleconference.

Train lines across the north-west and west coast were also affected by the wild weather, with TasRail suspending train services on the Melba Line and west of Western Junction.

At least 15 Tasmanian schools will close on Friday as high winds and the risk of flash flooding keep children at home.

Meanwhile, the strong winds that felled trees and roofs in Victoria are expected to ease, but thousands of Victorians remain without power.

More than 15,000 homes and businesses were without electricity on Thursday evening, and providers worked through the night to bring them back online.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the winds were expected to slow and cool down before potentially bringing hail and snow on Friday morning and late afternoon.

The SES received more than 1670 calls for help on Thursday, including to a supermarket car park in Bayswater where a tree had fallen on 10 cars.

Power company SP AusNet, which covers large parts of regional Victoria, reported 13,000 customers were blacked out on Thursday night.

An SP AusNet spokeswoman said homes and businesses were steadily being switched back on as crews repaired fallen powerlines.

A shop roof was blown off at Newborough in the Latrobe Valley and was hanging from nearby powerlines, and a home in Mirboo North was badly damaged when a large tree fell into a room.

 

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