Sydney’s Apocalyptic Hailstorm

Video highlights from Nature's Weirdest Events

On this day in 1999, the most expensive storm in Australian history devastated Sydney.

Sydney is no stranger to a storm, even those with hail, but no one was ready for the hailstorm that hit the city on 14 April 1999.

With early reports suggesting the storm would head out to sea, neither the Bureau of Meteorology or emergency services were ready for what was about to happen.

Shortly after residents heard small pellets of hail hitting roofs, the sky darkened and “hell” began to rain down.

Hailstones the size of cricket balls hurtled down, damaging cars, homes, and even planes.

The hailstone below the cricket ball measures 9cm in diameter

The hailstone below the cricket ball measures 9cm in diameter [Image: Bureau of Meteorology]

At the storm’s peak, emergency services received a call for help every ten seconds.

When all was said and done, the damage bill came to $1.7 billion, the most expensive natural disaster in Australian history. More than 35,000 buildings had serious roof damage or were completely destroyed. 40,000 vehicles and 25 commercial aircraft were also damaged.

Besides the level of destruction, the storm was unusual for other reasons.

Storm damage to cars and trees

Storm damage to cars and trees [Image: Bureau of Meteorology]

Before 1999, Sydney hadn’t recorded hail in April since 1795. The hailstones were the biggest ever recorded in the city. 

The length of the storm, five and a half hours, was almost unheard of. The path of the storm was also uncommon, moving back and forth between land and sea.

Sydney experienced another of nature’s weirdest events in 2009 when a dust storm the size of Spain turned the city red.

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