The largest hailstone ever to fall in Australia – a whopping 16cm in diameter – has been recorded in Queensland after heavy storms hammered the Mackay region on Tuesday afternoon.
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.
Yesterday’s 16cm hail in Yalboroo, Queensland is a new Australian record. The previous record was 14cm, observed in south-east Qld last year. The atmosphere was extremely unstable, which allowed hail to continue growing before gravity forced it to the ground.
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) October 19, 2021
“Some people had it taking up the whole hand, pretty impressive,” Narramore said. “We are talking grapefruit-sized hail.”
Narramore said the image was able to be quickly verified as the photographer had taken the picture of the hailstone next to a measuring tape.
When the BoM receives an image, they speak to the person who took the measurement and then check the report against satellite data of weather patterns in the area.
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.
Monstrous hailstones measuring 16cm in diameter fell to the ground in central Queensland on Tuesday afternoon, likely setting a new Australian record for hail size.
More at https://t.co/3mUg8dUNmd
Image: Hail at Yalboroo by @samyj_412 on Instagram pic.twitter.com/xC9iYpKPuU
— Weatherzone (@weatherzone) October 19, 2021
It begins as hail when warm, moist air rises into the atmosphere to meet a layer of very cold, dry air and the rain droplets created by the storm are frozen into hailstones.
The updraft created then keeps the ice in the air for longer allowing each stone to grow into giant hail.
These stones can be dangerous as they are mixed in with golf ball-sized hail and heavy rain and can harm those caught outside and quickly damage property.
Narramore said early reports from social media suggest the damage had been severe with hailstorms crashing through roofs of tin sheds and car windshields.
“Straight through the tin,” Narramore said. “I have seen a couple of photos of cars where the hail has gone straight through the windshield. Once you get about 15cm-size hailstones you will start seeing this really bad damage.”
Related: La Niña weather event now even more likely to deliver a wet and windy summer across Australia, Bom says
Photos and video posted to the Higgins Storm Chasing Facebook page showed the aftermath of hail punching through car windshields and denting solar panels.
Ian Leeson, a user on the page responding to an image of a fist-sized hailstone described it as “killer ice”.
“Get hit in the head with one of those travelling at terminal velocity and you won’t survive,” Leeson said.
A spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Australia said they were currently talking to their members who have a large number of policyholders in Queensland.
Hailstorms are often billion-dollar events as they can affect a wide area and cause massive damage in a matter of minutes.
Last year the Halloween hailstorm that struck Ipswich in Queensland caused $1.05bn in damage.
While severe thunderstorms are expected in eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales, no further hailstorms are expected.Internet Explorer Channel Network