‘Like snow’: freak hail storms batter Australia’s east coast

By Royce Kurmelovs

Freak storms across the east coast of Australia have damaged buildings and pounded cities with hail the size of grapefruit.

The largest hailstone ever to fall in Australia – a whopping 16cm in diameter – was recorded in Queensland after heavy storms hammered the Mackay region on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, a shopping centre in Coffs Harbour was evacuated after heavy rain collapsed the ceiling during a hail storm that battered northern New South Wales.

About 400 people were taking shelter in the Toormina shopping centre when water began pouring in through the ceiling.

One person who uploaded footage on Twitter described the hail damage as “unreal” and said the windshield of their car had been “smashed”.

Elsewhere hail blanketed the ground like snow.

A spokesperson for the State Emergency Service said it had responded to more than 280 calls for assistance on Wednesday afternoon, particularly at homes with skylights.

“We do expect that number to steadily climb over the next few hours especially as people arrive home from work,” they said.

“While we’re in storm season, it stresses the need for people to be prepared. We do see these storms can happen quite quickly, and they can be quite ferocious.”

NSW Fire and Rescue put together a strike force to assist the SES as a second storm cell headed for Casino.

On Tuesday heavy storms hammered north Queensland and the largest hailstone ever to fall in Australia was officially recorded.

Forecaster Dean Narramore from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) told the ABC that the “dangerous thunderstorm” lashed the Yalboroo area north of Mackay leading to multiple reports of giant hail.

While many of the stones measured 12 to 14cm in diameter Narramore said a “very impressive” image had been sent to the BoM’s Queensland office allowing them to verify the 16cm reading.

“Some people had it taking up the whole hand, pretty impressive,” Narramore said. “We are talking grapefruit-sized hail.”

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Giant hail is defined as any hailstone greater than 5cm in diameter and is extremely rare as it can only form under specific environmental conditions.