Massive hailstorm hits Sydney, ICA declares a catastrophe, Australia

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Multiple severe thunderstorms hit the Australian state of New South Wales, including capital Sydney on December 20, 2018, dropping tennis ball-sized hail and causing huge damage.

Emergency service said it was the worst hailstorm to hit the city since 1999 while the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) declared the event a ‘catastrophe.’ More than 25 000 claims were already made and losses of more than $125 million.

ICA said the full financial impact will be significant. However, the exact amount won’t be known for some days or even several weeks.

The agency said it was the 5th catastrophe declared this year. In March, bushfires in NSW and Victoria resulted in $82.5 million in insured losses. In the same month, Cyclone “Marcus” caused $62 million in claims, with $16.8 million from floods in Queensland. Storm and flood damage around Hobart in May resulted in $99.6 million in insured losses.

The worst affected seems to be Oran Park and Harrington Park in Sydney’s west where hail up to 8 cm (3.14 inches) in diameter accompanied heavy rain and strong winds. Large hail was also reported in Paddington, Cabramatta and Padstow.

Narrabri and Wee Waa recorded winds of up to 140 km/h (87 mph), Murrurundi 114 km/h (70.8 mph), Scone 111 km/h (68.9 mph) and Richmond Airport in Sydney’s west 90 km/h (55.9 mph).

The State Emergency Service said it had responded to 421 jobs since midday, with “almost every second home” in Berowra needing assistance.

Planes were not landing at Sydney Airport at the height of the storm, Air Services Australia said. Delays of up to 90 minutes at the domestic terminal and 3 hours at the international terminal were reported.

More than 35 000 homes were without power at the height of the storm.

In 1999, hail up to 9 cm (3.54 inches) in diameter pummeled the city, causing $1.7 billion in insurance payouts.

Featured image credit: Bondifit

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