39. The Sydney Hailstorm

Photographer: Emergency Management Australia

Year: April 1999

Location: New South Wales, Australia

Casualties: 1

The colorful tarps covering the roofs across this neighborhood acted like bandaids after Mother Nature delivered a ruthless beating to the greater Sydney area. For six hours, she pummeled the greater Sydney area with closed-fisted blows in the form of hailstones the size of tennis balls. The strength, breadth and duration of the storm caused enough damage to make it the most expensive natural disaster ever in Australia. Smashing through windows and roofs, the giant ice cubes left cars and homes vulnerable to subsequent problems like water damage, structural failure, or personal injury. Dozens of people were clobbered by the giant ice cubes, or forced into car accidents by them, however, the single casualty of the event was caused by a lightning strike on a fishing boat.