1999 Sydney hailstorm

Coordinates: 33°52′2″S 151°12′27″E / 33.86722°S 151.20750°E

1999 Sydney hailstorm
1999 Sydney hailstorm stones
Hailstones dropped during the storm, compared to a cricket ball (7 cm or 2.8 in diameter)
Formed4:25 pm, 14 April 1999
North of Nowra
Dissipated10:00 pm, 14 April 1999
East of Gosford, offshore
DamageInsured: A$1.7 billion
Total: A$2.3 billion (est.)
Fatalities1 (lightning, off Dolans Bay)
Areas affectedEastern suburbs, Sydney

The 1999 Sydney hailstorm was the costliest natural disaster in Australian insurance history, causing extensive damage along the east coast of New South Wales. The storm developed south of Sydney on the afternoon of Wednesday, 14 April 1999 and struck the city's eastern suburbs, including the central business district, later that evening.[1]

The storm dropped an estimated 500,000 tonnes of hailstones in its path.[2][3] Insured damages caused by the storm were over A$1.7 billion,[4] with the total damage bill (including uninsured damages) estimated to be around A$2.3 billion.[5][6] It was the costliest in Australian history in insured damages, surpassing the A$1.1 billion in insured damages caused by the 1989 Newcastle earthquake. Lightning also claimed one life during the storm, and the event caused approximately 50 injuries.[7][8]

The storm was classified as a supercell following further analysis of its erratic nature and extreme attributes. During the event, the Bureau of Meteorology was constantly surprised by the frequent changes in direction, as well as the severity of the hail and the duration of the storm. The event was also unique as the time of year and general conditions in the region were not seen as conducive for extreme storm cell formation.[4][9]

Conditions and climatology

The conditions around Sydney on Wednesday, 14 April were calm, although a slight instability in atmospheric conditions was recorded by the Bureau of Meteorology in the region. Two instability events had been identified in the greater Sydney area, but both were considered minor by the meteorological agencies. A weak cold front was moving north along the coast, and moderate precipitation was falling over the Blue Mountains, southwest of the city. The meteorological reports and figures, however, suggested that the general atmospheric conditions were "not conducive" to support the formation of a major thunderstorm in the region.[10]

Historical records show that the formation of severe thunderstorms for the time of day and year had been rare, and it was improbable that they would maintain their intensity and cause significant damage.[11][12] This long-standing belief contributed to the Bureau of Meteorology's decision not to issue warnings in the early part of the storm's development.[10] The 1999 event was only the second time in recorded history that hail larger than 2 cm (0.8 in) had fallen in the Sydney metropolitan area in the month of April,[13] and only the fifth hailstorm to strike Sydney during April in the 200 years of meteorological records for the city.[14]

Hailstorms have had a history of significant damage in Australia. Since records on insured losses by the Insurance Disaster Response Organisation began in 1967 three other hailstorms — Sydney in 1986 and 1990, as well as Brisbane in 1985 — feature on the top-ten list of most insured damages caused by a single natural disaster, in addition to the 1999 storm. Hailstorms have caused more than 30% of all insured damages inflicted as a result of natural disasters in Australia during this period, and around three quarters of all hailstorm damage has occurred in New South Wales.[4]

Development of the storm

Formation and southern Sydney

1999SydHail Map Sth
Path of the storm from formation and in the southern regions of Sydney

The storm cell formed at 4:25 pm AEST to the north of Nowra, roughly 115 km (71 mi) south-southwest of Sydney. After forming, it initially headed towards the coast in a northeasterly direction. The cell passed just to the west of Kiama at around 5:15 pm and gained a 'severe' classification from the Bureau of Meteorology at the same time.[15] 'Severe' is a classification used by the Bureau of Meteorology for thunderstorms which meet a specific criteria, namely producing hailstones with a diameter of 2 cm (0.8 in) or more, wind gusts of 90 km/h (56 mph) or greater and flash flooding, or tornadoes. This classification is also used by the Bureau to classify the attributes of a storm at any given time during its life.[7][16]

The storm continued to move in a northeasterly direction, crossing the coast just north of Kiama at 5:25 pm. It was downgraded from a severe thunderstorm and proceeded to move further off the coast for another 15 minutes while gaining speed to around 37 km/h (23 mph). The storm then veered northward at 5:40 pm and continued parallel to the coast. Around 6:00 pm, directly east of Wollongong, the storm changed direction again, this time to north-northeast, and continued parallel to the coastline. Moderate hailstones were recorded falling in Wollongong as the western edge of the storm passed over the area, and the storm was reclassified as severe.[15]

The storm moved parallel to the coast in a north-northeasterly direction for the next fifty minutes. It maintained a severe classification though did not impact heavily on the coastal suburbs, because it was entirely offshore. The western edge of the storm, however, recrossed the coastline just east of Helensburgh, 40 km (25 mi) south-southwest of Sydney, at about 7:00 pm. Ten minutes later the direction of the storm veered slightly more northward and the centre of the storm crossed back onto land at Bundeena at around 7:20 pm.[17]

Immediate Sydney region

1999SydHail Map Ctr
Path of the storm over the eastern suburbs area of Sydney

The Bureau of Meteorology had not issued warnings for Sydney Airport, located on the northern shore of Botany Bay, or the rest of the eastern suburbs to prepare for large hail. They were not expecting the storm to veer northward again, but rather to continue to head further out into the Tasman Sea in a consistent north-northeasterly direction.[17][18]

After crossing the coast, the storm continued to move northward, crossing Botany Bay at 7:40 pm and reaching the Airport five minutes later. It travelled across the eastern suburbs between Botany Bay and Sydney Harbour between 7:45 pm and 8:05 pm, dropping massive hailstones on both houses and businesses in the eastern suburbs district and the central business district.[17] Some of the largest hailstones ever to be recorded in the Sydney region fell on the eastern suburbs during this storm. There were reports of 13 cm (5.1 in) diameter hailstones in the eastern suburbs, although the largest confirmed hailstone was 9 cm (3.5 in) in diameter.[19] It was the first time in 52 years that stones greater than 8 cm (3.1 in) had fallen in Sydney, with the last reported event being the 1947 hailstorm.[14]

The storm continued across Sydney Harbour and changed direction slightly to be heading north. It weakened after travelling over the Harbour, and was downgraded from a severe storm at 8:15 pm. The Bureau of Meteorology had concluded that the storm would weaken after heading across Sydney Harbour, believing it was dissipating and would therefore not produce any more substantial hail as it moved northward; therefore it did not issue warnings for the northern suburbs.[11][18]

Northern Suburbs and dissipation

1999SydHail Map Nth
Path of the storm after crossing Sydney Harbour until dissipating

The storm then continued north for twenty minutes over the North Shore suburbs of Sydney before regaining strength and veering north-northwest again, redeveloping severe thunderstorm characteristics. The storm's redevelopment again caught the Bureau of Meteorology off-guard, who had expected the storm to dissipate and move out to sea without causing further substantial damage.[17]

It proceeded to drop large amounts of hail on the northern beach suburbs of Mona Vale and Palm Beach around 8:50 pm, and the centre of the storm again crossed the coast and back out to sea just after 9:00 pm. The storm maintained its intensity, however, and continued to move in a northwesterly direction across Broken Bay. The western edge of the storm had a minor impact on southern suburbs of the Central Coast between 9:15 pm and 9:30 pm.[17]

The storm moved entirely off the coastline and into open water at around 9:45 pm. It then dissipated rapidly around 9:55 pm, directly east of Gosford. It was subsequently downgraded from severe status and the storm cell had faded completely by 10:00 pm.[1]


Secondary storm cell

1999 Sydney hailstorm radartwocells
The Bureau of Meteorology radar image from 8:10 pm, showing the first cell directly over the Sydney central business district and the second cell approximately 80 km (50 mi) south along the coastline

A second, far smaller storm cell passed along a similar route to the first later in the evening of 14 April. This cell was never given the classification of 'severe' by the Bureau of Meteorology, nor did it develop into a supercell like its predecessor.[20] Therefore, the route of the second cell was more direct and predictable than the first, following the general movement of the cold front (see conditions and climatology), and the Bureau of Meteorology issued warnings to all residents in the second cell's projected path to expect further storm activity.[21]

The secondary cell passed through Sydney two hours later than the first, just after 10:00 pm, having been approximately 80 km (50 mi) south of Sydney when the supercell struck. It dropped hail up to 2 cm (0.8 in) in diameter, as well as producing heavy rainfall. Damage caused by the second cell was mostly due to rain coming in through roofs already damaged by hail from the first cell. Hail from the second cell also contributed to the damage.[12][22]

Damage caused

The downpour of an estimated 500,000 tonnes of hail across Sydney suburbia resulted in widespread damage on the coastal suburbs in its path.[2][3] Insured losses due to the disaster reached roughly A$1.7 billion, with total costs estimated to be around A$2.3 billion.[5][6] The storm was the costliest natural disaster ever to hit Australia in terms of insured losses, surpassing the 1989 Newcastle earthquake by around A$600 million.[4] The areas that incurred the most damage were between Lilli Pilli and Darling Point, located 25 km (16 mi) apart on the coastline of Sydney.[23]

The vast majority of damage was done by hail and rain. Approximately 24,000 houses were significantly damaged, with many suffering water damage through the holes in roofs that the large hailstones created. The stones were estimated as travelling at up to 200 km/h (120 mph) in some periods of the storm, causing indentation damage to around 70,000 vehicles.[24] Twenty-three aeroplanes and helicopters at Sydney Airport were reported as having incurred notable damage from the hail, caused by the inability to place them under hangars in time to avoid the storm. This has been significantly attributed to a lack of warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology, who had expected the storm to continue moving further out into the Tasman Sea in the north-northeasterly direction in which it had previously been travelling.[17]

The most significant insurance costs were in the areas of residential property damage with 31.8% of total payments, motor vehicle damage with 28.6% and for properties which service the commercial and industrial sectors at 27.5%. Damage to aviation property, mainly planes at the vulnerable Sydney Airport, amounted to 5.9% of the claims, while 5.8% of all insurance payments were made for 'business interruption' and 0.4% for damage to boats as well as other miscellaneous claims.[24]

The storm caused one fatality; a 45-year-old man, who was fishing about 100 metres (300 ft) from the north shore of Dolans Bay in the Port Hacking estuary, was killed when his boat was struck by lightning.[5] Fifty injuries were recorded, caused by flying objects, road accidents due to poor visibility and smashed windscreens and other factors.[8][22]

Emergency response

1999 Sydney hailstorm cardamage
The aftermath of the storm on a suburban Sydney street

Owing to the magnitude of the storm, the State Emergency Service were aided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the New South Wales Fire Brigades and the Australian Capital Territory Emergency Service in recovery work.[4] Within hours of the storm striking the city, all affected areas were declared as 'disaster zones' and the New South Wales Government, under Premier Bob Carr, invoked a state of emergency, which gave control and co-ordination of the response to the State Emergency Service.[25] In the days following the storm, John Moore (Minister for Defence) approved a request for 300 Australian Defence Force personnel to assist recovery operations, although their assistance was only for one week while resources were stretched. The government, one week later, "unexpectedly" removed complete control from the State Emergency Service and placed certain suburbs and areas under the control of the Rural Fire Service and Fire Brigade.[25][26]

In the five hours following the storm striking Sydney, the State Emergency Service received 2,000 emergency calls to 1,092 separate incidents.[27] In total, the State Emergency Service received 25,301 calls for assistance to 15,007 incidents, with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service also receiving 19,437.[28] The recovery and clean-up mission used an estimated A$10 million worth of tarpaulin covers while waiting for permanent repairs.[24]

After 9 days, approximately 3,000 buildings (out of a total of 127,947 initially damaged) were still waiting for assistance and temporary fixes to shattered roofs and windows, while a similar number still required assistance a further week later (as a number of tarpaulins became detached or otherwise ineffective).[4][26] One month after the disaster, the main priority of the emergency services was ensuring that temporary fixes remained in place, as Sydney suffered further adverse weather in the period immediately following the storm.[25][26]

A study of a sample taken of affected areas suggested that roughly 62% of buildings in the affected areas suffered damage to roofs, around 34% to windows and 53% to vehicles.[12] Construction of infrastructure for 2000 Sydney Olympics in the city's west at the time meant there was a deficiency of tradespeople who could be contracted to repair roofs and windows. Estimates put between 45,000 and 50,000 tradespeople in Sydney at the time of the storm, yet owing to high demand "companies were quoting householders [A]$14,000 or more for roof repairs which would normally cost $3,000."[26] The situation led to a warning from Minister for Fair Trade John Watkins on the day following the storm, urging homeowners to ensure that tradespeople working to repair homes were fully qualified and legitimate.[29]

See also



  1. ^ a b Zillman (1999), 19.
  2. ^ a b Steingold, et al. (1999), 2.
  3. ^ a b Henri (1999), 16.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Schuster, et al. (2005), 1.
  5. ^ a b c Emergency Management Australia (2006).
  6. ^ a b Coenraads (2006), 229.
  7. ^ a b Bureau of Meteorology (2007).
  8. ^ a b Emergency Management Australia (2003), 61.
  9. ^ Zillman (1999), 29.
  10. ^ a b Whitaker (2005), 99.
  11. ^ a b Zillman (1999), i.
  12. ^ a b c Leigh (1999).
  13. ^ Bureau of Meteorology (1999).
  14. ^ a b Collings et al. (2000).
  15. ^ a b Zillman (1999), 17.
  16. ^ Zillman (1999), 6.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Zillman (1999), 18
  18. ^ a b Department of the Environment and Heritage (1999), iii.
  19. ^ Zillman (1999), iii.
  20. ^ Whitaker (2005), 97.
  21. ^ Whitaker (2005), 101.
  22. ^ a b Whitaker (2005), 103–4.
  23. ^ NSW State Emergency Service (2005).
  24. ^ a b c Schuster, et al. (2005), 2.
  25. ^ a b c Emergency Management Australia (2004).
  26. ^ a b c d Head (1999).
  27. ^ Wilson (n.d.).
  28. ^ Geoscience Australia (n.d.).
  29. ^ Australian Associated Press (1999).


External links

1947 Sydney hailstorm

The 1947 Sydney hailstorm was a natural disaster which struck Sydney, Australia, on 1 January 1947. The storm cell developed on the morning of New Year's Day, a public holiday in Australia, over the Blue Mountains, hitting the city and dissipating east of Bondi in the mid-afternoon. At the time, it was the most severe storm to strike the city since recorded observations began in 1792.The high humidity, temperatures and weather patterns of Sydney increased the strength of the storm. The cost of damages from the storm were, at the time, approximately GB£750,000 (US$3 million); this is the equivalent of around A$45 million in modern figures. The supercell dropped hailstones larger than 8 centimetres (3.1 in) in diameter, with the most significant damage occurring in the central business district and eastern suburbs of Sydney.The event caused around 1000 injuries, with between 200 and 350 people requiring hospitalisation or other medical attention, predominantly caused by broken glass shards. The majority of severe injuries reported were suffered by people on Sydney's beaches, where many were without shelter. The size of the hailstones were the largest seen in Sydney for 52 years, until the 1999 Sydney hailstorm caused A$1.7 billion in insured damage in becoming the costliest natural disaster in Australian history.

Fire and Rescue NSW

Fire and Rescue NSW (previously known as New South Wales Fire Brigades), an agency of the Government of New South Wales, Australia, is responsible for firefighting, rescue and hazmat services in the major cities, metropolitan areas and towns across rural and regional New South Wales. Fire and Rescue NSW is the seventh largest urban fire service in the world, with over 6,800 firefighters serving at 335 fire stations throughout the state, supported by 465 administrative and trades staff and 5,700 community fire unit volunteers. FRNSW are also the busiest fire service in Australia, attending over 124,000 incidents a year and undertaking 52,000 community activities in 2017/18.FRNSW also works closely with the NSW Rural Fire Service in regional areas, along with other agencies including the NSW State Emergency Service, NSW Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Forestry Corporation.

The agency operates under the Fire Brigades Act 1989, with a substantial history dating back well over 100 years to the establishment of the New South Wales Fire Brigades in 1910, and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade prior to that in 1884.The agency is led by the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, currently Paul Baxter NZIM, who reports to the Minister for Emergency Services. The minister is ultimately responsible to the Parliament of New South Wales.

List of costly or deadly hailstorms

This is a list of the costliest or deadliest hailstorms on record.

List of disasters in Australia by death toll

This is a list of disasters and tragic events in modern Australia sorted by death toll.

Phil Koperberg

Philip Christian Koperberg (born 28 April 1943), is the Chairman of the New South Wales Emergency Management Committee, responsible for advising the New South Wales government on emergency response strategies, since 2011.

Koperberg is a former Australian politician, was the New South Wales Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water between 2007 and 2008; and was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, representing the electorate of the Blue Mountains for the Labor Party between 2007–2011. Prior to his political career, Koperberg was the Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) in Australia between 1997–2007.

"An expert in risk and crisis management, Phil Koperberg was the overall emergency controller during the 2001 Christmas/New Year fires, when Australia faced its longest and most intense bush firefighting campaign. In 1994 Phil Koperberg was also the overall emergency controller, as firefighters battled to control over 800 New South Wales fires covering in excess of 800,000 hectares. In 1999, his expertise was again called upon during the severe hail storms which damaged more than 30,000 properties."

In September 1997, Koperberg was appointed the RFS Commissioner when the Service was formed under the Rural Fires Act. Before this he had been Director-General of the New South Wales Bush Fire Service from May 1990. In March 2007 he was elected to State parliament and appointed to the Ministry. However, in December he was forced to stand aside due to a police investigation regarding domestic violence allegations from 1987. The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions declined to press charges and Koperberg was reinstated to the Ministry. He resigned from the Ministry on 22 February 2008. Koperberg did not recontest the 2011 state election.

Sydney Girls High School

Sydney Girls High School, is an academically selective public high school for girls located at Moore Park, in Sydney, NSW.

Established in 1883 and operated by the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities, as a school within the Port Jackson Education Area of the Sydney Region, the school has approximately 940 students from Years 7 to 12 and is situated adjacent to its "brother school", Sydney Boys High School.

Sydney Girls High School NSW Rankings by ATAR: 4th in 2007, 2008 and 2009, 5th in 2010, 6th in 2011, 4th in 2012, 6th in 2013, 4th in 2014, 3rd in 2015, 13th in 2016, 4th in 2017 and 4th in 2018.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.