THE strongest winds to hit Sydney in at least six years have blown boats ashore, torn off rooftops and delayed transport and traffic.
Three large yachts were found grounded on the foreshore at Little Manly Beach after winds of 106km/h hit Sydney Harbour yesterday afternoon. Botany Bay experienced the strongest wind speed of 115km/h.
Sydney's coastal suburbs were the worst affected as winds tore down a 50 metre by 20 metre roof at Manly's St Paul's Cathedral, forcing the evacuation of more than 700 people at the school. Half of the roof of a nine-storey building in North Sydney was peeled off. Fallen power lines left about 28,000 Sydney homes without power for significant periods, an Energy Australia spokesman said.
The wind and rain also affected transport throughout the city. Sydney's domestic terminal experienced delays of up to an hour while the ferry service between Manly and Circular Quay was suspended and replaced by buses.
Trains on the inner west line between Ashfield and Redfern were halted for over an hour yesterday afternoon and the eastern suburbs line experienced delays up until the evening peak hour.
Fire and Rescue NSW responded to more than 500 emergency calls yesterday as wild weather uprooted trees and damaged roofs and power lines, causing chaos throughout the state.
Forecasts suggest the worst of the weather had passed late yesterday but winds would remain strong in coastal areas until Monday. ''Speeds will be up to 50km/h [today], particularly on the coastal areas and, as you move away from the coasts, westwards, they will be less,'' a Bureau of Meteorology spokesperson, David Barlow, said.
''Showers are more likely on the coast, up to eight millimetres and the other main note over the weekend is the low [pressure system] out in the Tasman has directed quite heavy surf and waves onto the coast, so there's a warning of damaging surf.''
Sydney will warm slightly over the weekend as the temperature will increase to a top of 17 degrees today and tomorrow, and the wind chill will ease.