A freak hail storm swept across Sydney last night, causing damage worth hundreds of millions of dollars and triggering a massive rescue and repair effort by emergency services.  Thousands of homes were damaged as roofs caved in and windows and skylights were smashed.  Thousands more cars were wrecked or badly damaged in the storm, which struck with no official warning.  The ambulance service said dozens of people were treated for cuts and lacerations after being hit by falling glass or hail stones, which witnesses described variously as being as big as golf balls, lemons, cricket balls and rock melons.  The Northern Division SES controller, Mr. Greg Moonie, said it "was as bad if not worse" than the 1991 storm through the northern suburbs, which resulted in 22,000 calls for help from the SES.
In Oxford Street alone, one motorist counted 26 vehicles with smashed windshields after the city was struck at 8:05 p.m. following 15 minutes of spectacular lightening displays.  The storm's force sheered off the side mirrors of some cars.  In the following 20 minutes, the inner-city received the most intense battering as hail ranging in size from 10c (4 inches) pieces to the size of cricket balls rained down.  Many flights at Sydney Airport were cancelled, with some planes damaged by hail.  The two villages of Bundeena and Maianbar in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, were cut off last night when an eight-kilometre stretch of road was covered by hail stones up to 50 cm (1 1/2 ft.) deep. [Weekend News Today By Andra Brack Source:  Sydney Morning Herald THURS.  April 15, 1999]

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