22 January 2020

Motorists advised it could take a year to repair hailstorm damage

| Michael Weaver
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The Shine Dome

The Shine Dome at Acton was severely damaged by the hail storm. Photo: Australian Academy of Science.

Roof repairers, insurance companies and panel beaters have been inundated with requests to repair and rebuild after Monday’s devastating hail storm, with the Australian Motor Body Repairers Association saying panel beaters could be fixing hail-damaged cars for the rest of the year.

The Insurance Council of Australia declared the ACT a catastrophe zone due to damage caused by the hailstorm, with more than 15,000 insurance claims already in train.

Gary Fleming of A Plus Towing has been towing vehicles and heavy machinery since bushfires swept through the region on New Year’s Eve. He told Region Media the company has towed more than 300 hail-damaged vehicles since the storm hit on Monday.

Four of his trucks also sustained damage during the storm, mainly to the emergency lighting beacons on the trucks. Mr Fleming said his network of drivers sprung into action from the moment the storm hit.

“One of my roadside units and my own car were destroyed,” Mr Fleming said.

“From the time of the storm, we’ve been non-stop and have had to call in more staff. We’ve done at least 300 tows since the storm hit and we worked until 2:00 am that morning picking vehicles up.

“We’ve also been at the fires since New Year’s Eve, mostly around Cooma and Moruya, towing heavy machinery.

“We’ve gone from one extreme where we’ve had four trucks on standby with the fires to this storm. It’s just been a really crazy start to the year,” he said.

Simone Willey of ReACT Roofing said they had been inundated with calls for repairs to broken tiles and skylights.

“The phones went for about four hours straight after the storm hit and I haven’t stopped answering the phones since,” Ms Willey said on Wednesday (22 January).

“The boys will be responding to the callouts for the next couple of weeks.”

Damage to the Shine Dome

Large hail caused pitting on the copper roof of the Shine Dome. Photo: Australian Academy of Science.

The Shine Dome at Acton also sustained serious damage during the hail storm, which dented the heritage-listed building’s copper roof tiles and smashed several skylights. The building’s nationally significant scientific archives were also exposed to the hail and rain.

The archives include the collections of some of Australia’s most famous scientists, including Australian Academy of Science Fellow Frank Fenner, who is best known for overseeing the eradication of smallpox and the control of Australia’s rabbit plague.

The archives also include the collection of Frank Leslie Stillwell, a geologist who was part of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson in 1911.

Australian Academy of Science Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia said there was no damage to the archives thanks to a rescue effort by staff who formed a human chain to move the boxed archives to safety.

“The extreme weather events of the past few months have demonstrated that fire and storm damage are real and present dangers and this incident has highlighted the urgent need to accelerate the digitisation of this significant and unique historical collection,” Ms Arabia said.

“The Academy is the only place in the world that holds these scientific collections and we continue to receive strong global interest to access the archives, with historians and researchers regularly visiting Canberra to access them.”

The vehicles of 34 staff were also severely damaged by the hailstorm and were unable to be driven home.


Leaves from trees hit by hail on the streets of Kingston. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT State Emergency Service, with the assistance of the NSW State Emergency Service, is working tirelessly to respond to roof damage, fallen trees, skylight damage and broken solar panels.

A record 2100 calls for assistance were received by the Emergency Service Agency.

As of Wednesday, there were 1070 incidents outstanding and 1020 incidents had been completed.

“Calls for assistance have been prioritised based on the information given at the time of call, the risk to the community and the circumstances of the caller.

“We ask that Canberrans remain patient as we clear the record number of calls for assistance,” an ESA spokesperson said.

Head of Risk and Operations at the Insurance Council of Australia Karl Sullivan said insurers would prioritise claims from hail-affected areas and were already advising customers about assessments and repairs.

Mr Sullivan said losses from the ACT, Victoria and NSW are estimated at $320 million.

“Property owners should contact their insurer before commissioning any repairs to their homes or business to ensure these works are paid for under their policy,” he said.

Under the catastrophe declaration, the Insurance Council has activated a disaster hotline (1800 734 621) to assist customers who have enquiries about the claims process.

For storm recovery tips, visit Understand Insurance.

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