Hail decimates crops in central Queensland

Supercells at Biloela and Rockhampton cause isolated crop damage

Weather
A supercell moved across the Biloela district on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Troy Lehmann

A supercell moved across the Biloela district on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Troy Lehmann

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Supercells wreak havoc at Biloela and Rockhampton.

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Hail the size of navel oranges has destroyed crops in central Queensland, after a series of supercells crossed the region on Sunday.

Biloela grower Ian Kennedy said the hail and wind had decimated 10 hectares of kent and butternut pumpkins.

He estimates at least a third of the pumpkins he was due to harvest next month have been destroyed.

"We received 44mm of rain over 24 hours to Monday morning, with 31mm of that falling in a severe storm that struck just before 1pm on Sunday," Mr Kennedy said.

"We experienced significant wind and hail, which was the size of cricket balls at its largest.

"Anything that wasn't mature, and was still soft, has been damaged by the hail.

"The butternuts and watermelons fared the worst, and we expect significant losses."

The Kennedy family at Biloela has reported significant damage to immature pumpkins, caused by large hail stones.

The Kennedy family at Biloela has reported significant damage to immature pumpkins, caused by large hail stones.

Mr Kennedy had expected the crop to yield upwards of 300 tonnes but now faced the prospect of a loss of at least one third.

"Depending on the daytime temperatures over the next few weeks, and how sunburnt the fruit gets, those losses could increase significantly," he said.

"We were due to start harvesting in the second week of May, and it would be impossible for us to bring that date forward now to try to salvage what is left because we still have to isolate workers for 14 days in light of coronavirus.

"On the plus side, the significant insect pressure that we have been dealing with since January is no longer an issue."

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Kimba Wong said there were a couple of severe storms in the Capricornia and Central Coast regions on Sunday.

"The southern suburbs of Rockhampton received 8-10cm sized hail, making it similar to a tennis ball or baseball," Ms Wong said.

"There was similar sized hail at Bungundarra and Woodbury, near Yeppoon."

For Ian Groves, The Groves Tropical Fruit, Bungundarra, the damage to crops was minimal.

Mr Groves said his family had farmed at Bungundarra since 1958 and this was only the second hail storm they had encountered.

They were on the edge of Sunday's storm, with the hailstones falling roughly a metre apart, whereas the hailstones in October 2004 covered the ground and piled up against the edge of the house.

Mr Groves said fortunately, all of their lychees and mangoes had been picked.

"At the moment we've got carambolas and avocados but the loss to the fruit in the orchard is light," he said.

"Our biggest damage is solar panels, just like in town, with about 40 solar panels damaged and dents in roofs on sheds."

Although hailstorms are uncommon, the Groves family aren't strangers to storm damage and were severely impacted by Cyclone Marcia in 2015.

Further north, Ms Wong said a wind gust of 96km/hour had been recorded at Mackay.

She said the bureau also received reports of marble to golf ball sized hail at Sarina and Hay Point.

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