Wild weather causes carnage

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Severe storm activity hit the ACT on Monday 20 January with hail as big as golf balls causing extensive damage to cars, windows and buildings including the iconic Shine Dome.

Severe storm activity hit Canberra on Monday 20 January with heavy downpours and significant hail causing hail and roof damage, electrical threats and localised flooding.

The hailstorm dented the heritage listed Shine Dome’s copper roof tiles and smashed several skylights, exposing the building’s nationally significant scientific archives to the hail and rain.

Australian Academy of Science Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia said there was no damage to the archives thanks to a rescue effort by staff, who formed a human chain to move the boxed archives to safety. 

“The extreme weather events of the past few months have demonstrated that fire and storm damage are real and present dangers and this incident has highlighted the urgent need to accelerate the digitisation of this significant and unique historical collection,” Ms Arabia said. “The Academy has been fundraising to have the archives digitised but we have not yet met our target of at least $10 million to achieve this.”

The Australian Academy of Science’s heritage-listed Ian Potter House, where staff are based, also suffered extensive damage, with dozens of windows smashed, rendering the building unsafe for staff for the immediate future. Ian Potter House was placed on ACT Heritage Register in 1998. The vehicles of 34 staff were also severely damaged by the hailstorm and were unable to be driven home.

The severe storm resulted in a record amount of calls to the ACT Emergency Services Agency with, 1,911 calls for assistance, up on the previous record of 998 calls from a windstorm back on 13 January 2017. Over the last two years, the ACT State Emergency Service has averaged an annual storm response of approximately 600 jobs.

In an update released at 7.50am on Tuesday 21 January the ESA said they had completed 445 jobs with 1,466 outstanding. It will take a number of days to get through every task and the ESA asks that if you no longer need assistance to call 132 500 to cancel your request.

On Tuesday 21 January the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) declared a catastrophe for damage caused by hail storms that struck eastern Melbourne, Victoria, the ACT and parts of NSW on Sunday 19 January and Monday 20 January.

Insurers have received more than 29,000 claims (56% from the ACT, 34% from Victoria and 10% from NSW). Losses are estimated at $320 million. About two-thirds of claims are for damage to motor vehicles.

Insurers have received more than 29,000 claims for damage caused by hail storms with two-thirds of claims for damage to motor vehicles. Image supplied.

Access Canberra has acknowledged that there are a large number of damaged vehicles remaining in government-controlled car parks and roadside parking.

They have advised if your car can not be driven, and is clearly damaged from the storm activity, and therefore remains in the parking space, you will not be fined. The National Capital Authority has made a similar commitment for vehicles that remain parked on national land.

Vehicle owners are reminded to remove any valuable items from their vehicles if leaving them on site and to make contact with their insurance companies to arrange the safe removal of their vehicles for repair.

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