One year on: emergency services braced for hail and storms

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ACT ESA commissioner Georgeina Whelan with ACT SES chief officer Anthony Draheim.

TODAY (January 20) marks 12 months since Canberra’s largest and most destructive hailstorm on record, and the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ACTESA) says they’re well prepared for future storm seasons.

The event saw golf-ball-sized hail cause severe damage across Canberra, with winds reaching 117 km/h knocking over trees and power lines and resulting in around 1000 homes losing power.

“The ACT has never seen anything like it,” said SES chief officer Andrew Draheim.

“We received a record 2500 calls asking for assistance in a 15-minute period, three times the amount we’d normally see over the course of an entire season.”

Civic, Belconnen and suburbs of the inner south were hit the hardest with heavy hail damage. Meanwhile, residents took to social media to post hundreds of photos and videos showing hailstones 4-5cm large.

Hail that bombarded Parkes during the storm.

In the 24 hours following the storm, crews assisted with emergency response to clear debris from major shopping centres, district parks, sports grounds, pathways and drains to make the city as safe and open as possible.

The hail came at a time when Canberra was still threatened by, and battling, fires, and ACT ESA commissioner Georgeina Whelan said: “The versatility of ACTESA and its four services to oscillate from fire to storm and flood in a 24-hour period is a testament to our staff and volunteers.”

When reflecting on the major storm, commissioner Whelan highlighted how important it is for residents to be prepared for future emergencies, especially with a La Nina weather platform seeing increased rainfall in the ACT.

“Whilst the ACTSES is prepared to respond to storm and flood damage we ask that residents prepare their homes and properties for any emergency, all year round,” she said.

“Canberrans can be prepared for storms by completing or updating their emergency survival plan. Have the conversation with your family about what you will do during an emergency – including how you will stay informed, when you will leave and what you will take.”

NSW and ACT SES Officers commemorating 12 months since their service during the hail storm.

The storm saw vehicles take a hit, too. According to figures released late last year by the ACT government, 44,500 cars were damaged in the storm. It was further estimated that around 7500 of those vehicles were uninsured.

As a result, car sales boomed in the months following with car retail data showing that Canberra’s sales were up 22.6 per cent from 2019. This was against a national sales decline of 13.7 per cent.

The ACT government’s Hail Assistance and Innovation Liaison (HAIL) Team also supported Canberra drivers impacted by the January hailstorm issuing upwards of $507,000 worth of rebates.

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