Part of the reason Australia has been so devastated by this summer’s wildfires is because the continent is in the grips of a years-long drought. And as the continent’s summer transitions into fall, that’s brought with it a much-needed change in the weather: rain and thunderstorms. While the rain is welcome and is giving firefighters the smallest of breaks, it’s bringing with it its own set of issues — namely, thunderstorms that produce lightning that can itself spark new fires, as well as damaging hail.
This was apparent on Monday afternoon (local time) in the country’s capital of Canberra. Blocks of ice the size of golf balls fell from the sky, pelting everything in their path, particularly around the country’s Parliament building. People outside frantically ran for cover, while drivers in their cars desperately sought underground parking or shelter.
Nevertheless, several vehicles and building windows were damaged by the hail, and several trees were stripped of their vegetation.
And in what has become a recurring theme in recent months in Australia, the storm injured several birds. Passerby Tom Swann found an injured cockatoo that “screeched horribly” as he tried to take it to the nearest veterinarian. As he would later find out, several other passersby had the same idea.
“Someone behind us at the vet brought in another galah, another brought a currawong, another a crow,” he said.
Meanwhile, the storm is expected to move east, targeting the cities of Sydney, Wollongong, and Newcastle.
“Damaging winds (possibly destructive), large hailstones (possibly giant) and heavy rainfall [are expected],” said the Australia Bureau of Meteorology.
Elsewhere in Australia, the storms are kicking up dust from the drought-ravaged landscape, creating walls of debris hundreds of feet high and miles long, bearing down on populated areas.
In the towns of Narromine, Dubbo, and Parkes, the dust clouds moved in, blocking out the sun on what had been a clear day with blue skies. Within minutes, visibility was down to zero, and neighborhoods were blanketed within minutes.
Across Australia, activists point to the drought and wildfires that have ravaged the country as symptoms of climate change, and are calling for their government to take drastic action. Earlier this month, tens of thousands of Australians converged to demand swift government action on the issue.