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Southeast mops up after giant hail, thousands without power

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Southeast Queensland is cleaning up this morning after a series of violent thunderstorms left 44,500 households without power and tennis-ball-sized hailstones forced residents to duck for cover in homes near Ipswich, west of Brisbane.

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Energex expects to work into this evening to restore power, with more than 15,000 customers still without electricity this morning, mostly in the Sunshine Coast, and Ipswich and Springfield, west of Brisbane.

Energex spokesman Justin Coomber is asking for patience as crews work to make repairs.

“We counted 413,000 lightning strikes throughout the day yesterday for south-east Queensland,” he said.

“That’s a massive amount when we consider all the storms in the previous week added up to about just under 1 million lightning strikes for the whole week.”

The State Emergency Service (SES) reported 1898 incidents yesterday, with 1,352 from the Ipswich area, which reported extensive structural damage.

Hailstones as large as 14 centimetres crashed through the ceilings of houses in the Ipswich suburb of Springfield Lakes, leaving some dwellings uninhabitable.

RACQ spokesperson Lucinda Ross said the destruction was “unbelievable” and crews were ready to help those worst affected.

“As an insurer, this is the worst hail damage we have seen since November 2014 when Brisbane was pummelled by another ferocious storm,” she said.

“We’ve had almost 1400 claims come overnight and most of those are for vehicle damage.

“We’ve got assessors and repairers ready … but first and foremost, we want to get our builders out there on the ground to make sure those people who are in potentially unsafe circumstances can be helped.”

‘Mother nature hits hard’

“It was like a war zone,” said Luis Mejias, who saw his father and mother-in-law’s Springfield Lakes house severely damaged by hailstones that breached its roof and ceiling.

“It’s scary and it’s sad. They’ve worked all their lives to get this house and now they’ve got nothing until it’s fixed.”

Mejias said his mother-in-law narrowly avoided serious injury when her house’s ceiling collapsed as they took cover inside.

“While my mother-in-law was sitting at a table, my wife heard a creak and she yelled at her to get out of the way as the whole ceiling came down from the kitchen, dining room and rumpus room,” he said.

“Stay safe [because] mother nature hits hard.”

Springfield Lakes resident Tanya Knight and her family had to stay overnight at a friend’s place because their house was “too dangerous” to stay in after storm damage.

“We were baking in the kitchen and a couple [of hail stones] came through the actual ceiling … I would never expect that in a million years,” Knight said.

“It felt like ages, but [the storm] was only about three minutes … it was very extreme.”

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) yesterday warned on social media that large hailstones could be “life-threatening” but there were no reports of major injuries.

SES acting commissioner Brian Cox said the storm was “the most significant one this year”.

The SES was swamped by calls from 1:00pm yesterday.

“Ahead of the storm, we sent out an emergency alert to 850,000 mobile phones to tell people to protect themselves and their property,” Cox said.

“We had hundreds of volunteers who have been activated all across the area.

“We helped many homes by putting up tarpaulins after major roof damage and flood inundation.”

Calmer weather forecast

The BOM said Queensland could expect calmer weather today, with no more storms in the forecast, as the trough clears.

A high-pressure system will bring drier and warmer than average temperatures, with 33 degrees Celsius forecast as Brisbane’s maximum today.

The stormy end to October meant that many Queensland cities and towns reported higher-than-average rainfall for the month.

Brisbane recorded 182mm, well above its October average of 75mm

Rockhampton recorded 70mm compared to 50mm, Warwick 112mm compared 70mm, Roma 115mm compared to 50mm, and Longreach had 32mm compared to 22mm.

Despite the more benign forecast for this week, Cox urged Queenslanders to download the free SES Assistance app to ensure quicker future service ahead of more wild weather this summer.

“We are going to see more storms like this in the months ahead, according to the Bureau,” Mr Cox said.

“They might be of less duration, but they are very intense.”

– ABC / Jessica Rendall, Jason Dasey and staff

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