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Freak hail storm wreaks havoc

Saturday, 12th November, 2016

Melbournian Peter McDonald, above, arrived in the city just in time for the storm which downed trees and damaged property across the city. PICTURE: Michael Murphy Melbournian Peter McDonald, above, arrived in the city just in time for the storm which downed trees and damaged property across the city. PICTURE: Michael Murphy

By Michael Murphy

Broken Hill residents were last night counting the cost after a fierce ice storm lashed the city about 6.30pm. 

Reports of damage were widespread as 5cm-wide hailstones, rain and freak wind gusts smashed windows, ripped off roofs, knocked down fences, dented cars and uprooted trees.

Powerlines went down in several locations, parts of the city were blacked out, and one area in South Broken Hill had a potentially damaging “brown out” where they still had power but at very low voltage.

The State Emergency Service (SES) received over 100 call-outs but said there appeared to be no major emergencies or injuries.

Powerlines dangled dangerously across Williams Street after a torrent of water ripped through the area and knocked trees across them, forcing firefighters to close the Barrier Highway near the Broken Hill Tourist Park.

Most of the city’s streets filled with torrents of stormwater during the height of the 20-minute storm, leaving a trail of debris after it subsided.

Peter McDonald was last night assessing the damage to his Holden Barina which was parked in Chloride Street near Sturt Park.

Peter had travelled up from Melbourne to visit his cousin and arrived in the Silver City at 5pm, before heading out to pick up some tea in Argent Street. 

“We were out in David’s car, he got a bit of damage in his windscreen,” Mr McDonald said while brushing the glass off the boot of his car.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to get hit by one of those hunks of ice ... it sounded pretty scary.”

Mr McDonald couldn’t believe his luck when he came back to his car. Besides the smashed window, it was pock-marked with hail dents.

He only intended to stay the weekend, and was last night making inquiries with his insurance company.

“At the moment there’s not much I can do about the dents, that won’t stop me from driving around, but I need to get back to Melbourne,” he said.

“Somehow I need to find out where I can get another rear window.”

Electrician Darren McCann, who lives in Wilson Street in South Broken Hill, was last night warning people in his neighbourhood to turn their power off at the main switch.

People still had some power in the area but lights were very dim.

Mr McCann measured the voltage at his house and it was very low, causing the “brown out”.

“Lower voltage can damage things especially electric motors and fridges with compressors,” Mr McCann said.

“I have recommended to everybody in the neighbourhood to turn off their main switch until power is restored.”

SES controller Darren Larkin said last night that it had received 106 calls for assistance, with roof damage one of the main issues, along with trees down.

Dozens of skylights were also smashed from the hail, according to Mr Larkin, who said SES members were trying to prioritise the most urgent jobs.

“What we’re trying to do now is contact all the serious ones to see if they’re safe or they need somewhere to go,” he said.

He also urged people not to drive or walk around the city if they could help it,  for their own safety.

“Please, if people can stay off the streets while the power lines are down.”

A spokesman for the Central Fire Brigade said most damage to homes was limited to some localised flooding and hail damage, though he knew of at least one house that had lost its roof.

Residents in the city’s North and West were also without power.

“The west side of town has absolutely no power whatsoever.

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