DECEMBER 20 will go down in history as one of the most catastrophic hail storms our city has experienced.
Hail and rain teemed down at a rate many hadn't seen since 1999, and social media lit up with photos of unusually shaped – and unusually large – ice stones.
The Insurance Council of Australia declared the event a catastrophe within a day and the damage bill had reached $673.9 million as of last week, the Insurance Council told AAP.
Hail smashed windscreens and dented car panels across the city, while water from overflowing gutters from the rain caused interior damage to many homes.
But for BobSwan, 63, of ChippingNorton, the storm damage was so severe his roof caved in. “The dining room ceiling caved in about 8pm – it scared the bejesus out of me!” he said.
“Then the ceiling in the spare bedroom came down at 1.30am. Then my bedroom ceiling at 4am. And then the kitchen ceiling came down on top of me at 8am.
“Every house in our street was trashed. But from what the SES and fireys told us, we had the worst house damage out of the whole of Sydney.”
The day began like any other Thursday, with Mr Swan knocking off from his job as a tradie and doing some odd jobs around the house.
It was stinking hot, he said. Then about 4.30pm he heard a “racket”.
“It was the first of the hail, and I started videoing it. It was actually quite amusing to start with – little did I know the hailstones were crashing through my roof tiles!”
The hailstones measured up to 10cm in diameter at Mr Swan’s place and smashed 352 of his terra cotta roof tiles. The street was chaotic, with all the neighbours tarping up their roofs as best they could.
About 7.30pm, a second storm hit which brought smaller hailstones but also rain in such torrents that it went straight through the damaged tiles and soaked into the insulation batts in Mr Swan’s ceiling.
“There was water through every lot, then the weight of the water in the batts just crushed the ceiling through.”
There were 1100 calls to SES from the Liverpool area alone according to LesMilne, commander of the Fairfield SES unit which was called on to send teams to help Liverpool and CastleHill units.
“They called in multiple units at both local government areas to help because of the enormity of the calls they were asked to respond to,” Mr Milne said.
“They also had the NSW Fire Brigade and the Rural Fire Service helping them.”
Mr Milne said the worst-hit areas in Sydney were Liverpool, Castle Hill and Berowra. In comparison, Fairfield only got 35 call-outs as they were “in the eye of the storm”, he said.
“The hail in Liverpool was golf-ball to cricket-ball size and 90 per cent of their calls were for roof damage,” Mr Milne said.
“We finished responding to calls in Fairfield pretty quick but with the Liverpool area we only finally got on top of the calls this weekend just gone. It was enormous!”
Back at Mr Swan’s house at Chipping Norton, he’s still trying to work out the full cost of the damage but he estimates it’s over $50,000 of damage to the house and a further $100,000 of damage to his house contents, including solar panels, carpets and furnishings.
The storm also damaged all three of his cars, as well as some irreplaceables, including photos and collector pinball machines.
Three weeks out from the catastrophe, Mr Swan hasn’t let it get him down: “I always keep my smile – you can’t change the inevitable.”
He’s been keeping a keen eye focussed on the Bureau of Meteorology’s local storm warnings, though. “I look at them constantly now. Every day.”