Australia had already suffered through perhaps it’s ‘angriest’ summer on record when hail storms ravaged Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney this week.
The storms have left at least a $320 million insurance bill – adding to a summer toll that’s seen 29 killed, a damage bill of almost $1 billion from fires, and records broken for rainfall and heat.
The weather extremes can best be exemplified in Queensland which has faced near record rainfalls, temperatures and extreme fires so far this summer.
The first blazes broke out in October in the Lockyer Valley – months before the normal fire season.
Mount Isa in the state’s west then recorded 21-straight days above 40C from December 6 to December 27.
By January, the Gold Coast was under water after a ‘once in 100-year storm’ dropped 300mm worth of rain in just a few hours – turning the city famous for its beaches and water parks into a wetland.
Weatherzone meteorologist Craig McIntosh said summer was often a time of ‘severe weather’, but admitted that the 2019-2020 summer was definitely at the extreme end.
Australia has battled one of its angriest summers on record, with everything from fires to floods ravaging parts of the country
Bushfires have claimed 29 lives across New South Wales (pictured), Victoria and South Australia, while an estimated 1 billion animals have also been killed
‘A lot of what has ended up happening across spring and summer with bushfires was set up with conditions in previous years,’ Mr McIntosh told Daily Mail Australia.
AUSTRALIA’S FIRES BY THE NUMBERS:
– 10 million: The number of hectares of land that have burned across Australia this summer
– 1 billion: Animals are estimated to have been killed in the devastation
– 250: The estimated number of threatened species to have been eradicated because of fire
– 29: Lives have been lost across the nation
– $2 billion: The amount donated by the federal government to help recovery
– $250 million: Has been donated to a wide variety of charities by the public
‘Summer is a severe weather season in Australia, so I’d be hard pressed to say that storms we’ve had over the last few days are out of the ordinary. They happen every summer, with some being worse than others.
‘But the conditions leading up this summer have made it feel worse, it’s been so dry.’
The devastating impact of Australia’s horror fire season has been felt across five states since October.
One of the hardest hit areas is along the Victorian and New South Wales border, where a pair of enormous fires combined to create a ‘mega blaze’ stretching for 600,000 hectares.
At Mallacoota, a small coastal town in the north-east corner of Victoria, about 4,000 tourists and residents found themselves stranded on the beach and had to be evacuated by the Australian Navy as fires closed in.
The fires in the East Gippsland claimed the lives of four people, while another man was killed driving along a smoke-affected Hume Highway in the state’s north.
But the impact of the fires hasn’t only been felt in rural areas, with smoke travelling to Sydney and Melboure hundreds of kilometres away.
The air quality in Melbourne was last week worse than Beijing, while Sydney has for the past two months regularly been covered in smog.
Bushfires claimed 21 lives in NSW this summer, while almost 400 homes were lost in the state’s south-east alone.
After weeks of battling to contain out-of-control bushfires, firefighters were confronted with a new challenge last week – torrential rain.
The impact of the fires has not been reserved to rural communities, with cities such as Sydney (pictured) being blanketed by smoke
Heavy smoke meant Melbourne’s air quality was last week worse than Beijing, which spends most days blanketed with smog
Navy ships (pictured) had to be called in to Mallacoota, a popular holiday destination on the NSW and Victorian border, to evacuate more than 4,000 people as fires threatened the town
‘The fire and drought conditions have weakened the vegetation, meaning trees and trees’ branches are going to be much more likely to come down due to wind gust or a bit of heavy hail,’ Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Gabrielle Woodhouse said.
Some children in drought affected areas in the state’s north saw rain for the first time in their lives and while it was welcome, it also came at a cost.
Dubbo – which received a record low rainfall of 211mm in 2019 – was among those predicted to share in the downfall.
But when winds arrived without any precipitation, the town was engulfed in a dust storm that turned day to night.
Incredible pictures show a wall of brown dust moving slowly over the horizon like a tsunami, forcing residents inside and cars to pull over to the side of the road.
Less than 24 hours later parts of NSW and the ACT would be lashed by a wild storm, with hail the size of cricket balls smashing through car windscreens and house windows, while turning the surface of Canberra’s Manuka Oval completely white.
Dubbo (pictured) was last week confronted by a tsunami of dust (pictured), caused by high-winds sweeping over the drought ravaged area
Townsville (pictured) is again bracing for flash flooding in the coming days, after last year receiving a year’s worth of rainfall in just 10 days
The Stirling Ranges (pictured) in Western Australia were also recently hit by a 40,000 hectare fire, threatening the 87 species of flora that can not be found anywhere else in the world
The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the storms that hit on Monday a ‘catastrophe’, with the bill already at $320 million and likely to rise further.
‘It is certainly a very angry summer and we’re not even midway through the disaster season yet,’ Campbell Fuller of the Insurance Council of Australia said.
Mr Fuller told Daily Mail Australia that 19,500 claims have been already been lodged, including 11,000 in Canberra, 4,000 in Melbourne and 3,000 in Sydney.
The impact of Australia’s wild summer will be lasting with more than 1 billion animals killed by bushfires and some species wiped off the map entirely.
Kangaroo Island off the South Australian coast lost 200,000 hectares – almost half the entire island – to fire.
Kangaroo Island, off the South Australian coast, lost 200,000 hectares – almost half the entire island – to fire, with fears about the extent of damage caused to its koala population (pictured)
Parts of Queensland have endured 21 consecutive days above 40C this summer, but the Gold Coast received 300mm of rain in just a few hours on Saturday and Sunday causing flash flooding (pictured)
The tourist destination, popular for its sandy beaches and theme parks (pictured), was turned into a wetlands by the rainfall
Two firefighters were killed, and island’s koala population has been decimated.
Army reservists were sent to the island to help clean up the thousands of carcasses of koalas, kangaroos and other native wildlife.
The Stirling Ranges in Western Australia were also hit by a 40,000 hectare fire, threatening the 87 species of flora that are not found anywhere else in the world.
Conservationists predict the area – which is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world – could take centuries to recover.
In good news for worn out firefighters, the wet weather is expected to return after a fortnight of heat across much of the country.
Parts of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia can expect up to 65mm rain in the first half of February.
However most of Queensland will continue to swelter, with as little as 20mm in some regions.
2019/2020 FIRE SEASON DEATH TOLL
The national death toll in Australia’s 2019/2020 bushfire season was 32 as of Thursday, January 23, with 24 confirmed deaths in New South Wales, three in South Australia and five in Victoria.
New South Wales:
Robert Lindsey, 77, and Gwen Hyde, 68, were found in their burned out Coongbar home near Casino on October 9th.
New South Wales:
The body of 85-year-old George Nole was found in a burnt out car near his home in Wytaliba, near Glen Innes.
Vivian Chaplain, a 69-year-old woman from Wytaliba, succumbed to her injuries in hospital after attempting in vain to save her home and animals from the blaze.
The body of 63-year-old Julie Fletcher was pulled from a scorched building in Johns River, north of Taree.
Barry Parsons, 58, was found in a shed at Willawarrin, near Kempsey.
Chris Savva, 64, died after his 4WD overturned near burnt-out South Arm bridge, near Nambucca Heads.
A 59-year-old man was founded sheltered in a Yarrowitch water tank on November 7. He died of injuries on December 29.
David Moresi, 69, died after being involved in a traffic incident while working at the at the Gelantipy fire in East Gippsland on November 30.
New South Wales:
Firefighters Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, and Geoffrey Keaton, 32, died on December 19 after a tree fell on their truck while they were travelling through Buxton, south of Sydney.
Samuel McPaul, 28, was battling a blaze in Jingellic, in Green Valley, about 70km east of Albury on the border of NSW and Victoria, on December 30 when a ‘fire tornado’ caused his 10-tonne firetruck to roll.
The body of 69-year-old Ron Selth was found in his Charleston home, which was destroyed by the Cudlee Creek blaze on December 21.
NEW YEAR’S EVE FIRES
New South Wales:
Dairy farmer Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, died trying to save their property in Cobargo, near Bega, on December 31.
A 70-year-old man, named by local media as Laurie Andrew, was found dead outside a home at Yatte Yattah, west of Lake Conjola.
The body of a 70-year-old man was found in a burnt vehicle on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah on the morning of New Year’s Day.
The body of a 62-year-old man was found in a vehicle on Wandra Road at Sussex Inlet about 11.30am on New Year’s Day.
A body, believed to be a 56-year-old man, found outside a home at Coolagolite, east of Cobargo on New Year’s Day.
An off-duty RFS firefighter, believed to be 72-year-old Colin Burns, was found near a car in Belowra after the New Year’s Eve fires swept through.
Beloved great-grandfather Mick Roberts, 67, from Buchan, in East Gippsland, was found dead at his home on the morning of New Year’s Day.
Fred Becker, 75, was the second person to die in Victoria. He suffered a heart attack while trying to defend his Maramingo Creek home.
New South Wales:
David Harrison, a 47-year-old man from Canberra, suffered a heart attack defending his friend’s home near Batlow on Saturday, January 4.
A 71-year-old man was found on January 6. Police have been told the man was last sighted on December 31, 2019 and was moving equipment on his property in Nerrigundah.
An 84-year-old man who stayed to defend his home in Cobargo, NSW, dies in hospital three weeks after fire hit. His pet dog Bella, who stayed by his side as fires raged, was also killed in the disaster.
Three American firefighters are killed when Coulson Aviation C-130 Hercules water bomber Zeus crashed while fighting fires near Cooma on Thursday January 23. They have been named as Capt. Ian H. McBeth, 44, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr, 43.
On January 24, the remains of a 59-year-old man were found in a Bodalla home destroyed by bushfires near the NSW South Coast town of Moruya.
Forest Fire Management firefighter Mat Kavanagh, 43, was killed Friday January 3 when he was involved in a two-car crash on the Goulburn Valley Highway.
Bill Slade, a 60-year-old father of two from Wonthaggi was fighting fires with Parks Victoria at Omeo when he died on January 11. He has been remembered as one of the longest serving, most experienced and fittest firefighters.
Well-known outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son, Adelaide surgeon Clayton Lang, died in the Kangaroo Island bushfire after their car was trapped by flames.
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