March 22nd, 2010, Perth. The largest storm in 50 years tears through suburbia leaving a $100mn clean up operation. The largest hail stones ever witnessed in Perth (upwards of 6cm wide) fell with relentless force in under an hour, knocking out power to 150,000 homes. In some areas 55mm of rain fell in one hour, some places experienced 27mm deluges in under 10 minutes.
All of this was behind me as I drove eastwards out to the Perth domestic airport to catch my flight to Kalgoorlie. A 5pm flight was due to get me in the mining town an hour later, giving me a few hours to wander through the place before my training day the next morning. I could see there was a storm coming, but was only to know later that my colleagues’ cars left in the carbays at work were to be ruined by hailstones the size of golf balls, which pummelled everything in their path, stripping trees of their leaves which blocked drains and quickly led to flooding. The commute home for many was going to be a terrible one that evening.
Meanwhile at the airport, I parked in the long term carbays and tossed up whether I would walk to the terminal, but seeing the oncoming dark clouds wisely plumped for the shuttle bus. It was about then the storm hit the airport, and 5 minutes later I dived in to the building to check in and offload the baggage. You could hear the storm the overhead and guessed we’d be delayed, but it was about 20 minutes later I saw the roof start to collapse inwards, and water pour in at various places. I was wondering if the planes were OK. Meanwhile, the lounge bar quickly gained an unplanned waterfall (see picture). Within minutes we were evacuated out of the building, and 5 hours later allowed back in to take our flight. I arrived at my Kalgoorlie hotel 6 hours late, only to find out they have messed up my booking. I think I got a room sometime around 2am.
I’ll never forget that day, as will few others who experienced it. On returning to Perth a few days later, the damage done by a ferocious hail storm was incredible to see. Pock marked cars were everywhere, car garages were giving away hail-damaged cars at ridiculous prices. Repair shops had months of queues. Leaves were piled up and strewn over the roads. Carports were down, windows smashed.