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‘Catastrophic’ hailstorm and a month’s worth of rain in an hour slam Queensland, Australia


A catastrophe has been declared in Queensland after severe thunderstorms, tennis ball-sized hail, and flash flooding pounded the state's southeast on October 31, 2020, with Brisbane receiving a month's worth of rain in an hour of 80 mm (3 inches), according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). It was the first catastrophe declaration for the 2020/21 natural disaster season, with insured losses estimated at 60 million dollars, thousands of emergency calls reported, and 42 000 people left without power. 

Severe thunderstorms and hail up to 14 cm (5.5 inches) in diameter pounded the state's southeast region. Beachmere recorded 80 mm (3 inches) while The Upper Lockyer received 70 mm (2.7 inches), which was "a month's rain in the space of an hour," according to meteorologist Felim Hanniffy.

The amount of rain was "very hard to get rid of," said meteorologist Rosa Hoff. "[It was] very damp indeed."

"The hail was as big as my shoulder," said local Boston Willcox. "It was pretty big."

"It just started hailing into the room, the whole house and my whole room collapsed," Springfield Lakes student Dominic Pirlo described.

The violent weather resulted in flooding and damages, with the Insurance Council of Australia receiving more than 5 000 claims. The estimated loss amount to 60 million dollars, the majority of which were motor vehicles, while the rest were house damage, including roofs, solar panels, and skylights.

Among the hardest-hit suburbs were Springfield, Rosewood, Greenbank, and Boronia Heights.

Prior to the storms' onslaught, BOM warned that the situation is going to be "volatile" and would cause a "significant threat to property and life."

"The catastrophe declaration means insurers will prioritize claims from these hail-affected areas and will direct urgent attention to those most in need of assistance," said Andrew Hall, the council's chief executive.

"Householders should contact their insurers before commissioning any repairs to their homes. They should ensure this work will be paid for under the policy."

Local media noted that it was the first catastrophe declaration for the 2020-21 natural disaster season, although the region has been battered by damaging storms in the past years.

"We don’t often see severe storms on this scale," meteorologist Lauren Pattie remarked. "For us to get a number supercell thunderstorms all with large to giant hail, significant wind gusts, and the damage from that, across that wide area is exceptional."

The Fire and Emergency Service reported more than 1 300 people called for assistance. Energex also reported more than 42 000 consumers were left without power. 

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for Capricorina and northern Wide Bay as severe storms "are likely to produce hail and damaging winds over the next several hours," BOM warned Monday, November 2.

Featured image credit: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

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