Fast-moving thunderstorms have brought heavy rain with golf-ball-sized hail stones lashing the ACT.
Widespread damage from the first wave of storms has been reported across Canberra, but appears to be particularly concentrated in the Belconnen suburbs, city and inner south.
The Bureau of Meteorology downgraded its severe weather warning for the ACT about 2.30pm, but said there was still the chance of another storm in the evening.
It's the latest in Canberra's bizarre summer after the city was enveloped for weeks in thick bushfire smoke that had only just cleared.
The relatively brief, but ferocious storm swept into the ACT at lunchtime, moving from the north-west to the south-east.
Wind gusts of up to 116km/h were recorded at Canberra airport, and there were reports of 4-5cm hail stones. But it only brought about 2.6mm of rain.
The Emergency Services Agency received a record 1900 calls for help since midday, and warned people that the high volume of calls meant there might be delays getting through. If you need help, call 132 500 and only use Triple Zero (000) for life-threatening emergencies.
"We ask for your patience at this time and your call will be answered as quickly as possible," it said.
"The ACT State Emergency Service, ACT Fire & Rescue and ACT Rural Fire Service are working together to respond to hail and roof damage, electrical threats and localised flooding."
There are reports of smashed car windscreens, flooding, broken windows, dented vehicles, trees down and branches shredded. There are dozens of reports of power down, especially in Belconnen and inner south.
Police are reminding drivers it is illegal to drive a car with a cracked or shattered windscreen.
Given a large number of vehicles were damaged in government car parks, authorities will not fine these drivers for leaving their cars there.
"We understand that due to the number of vehicles impacted by the weather event that removal of vehicles, such as getting them towed, may take some time and an understanding approach will be taken," the government said in a statement.
"We are aware that the National Capital Authority has made a similar commitment for vehicles that remain parked on national land.
"It is important that owners remove any valuable items from their vehicles if they are impacted in this way."
Even ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr was impacted, tweeting images of his smashed back windscreen.
From fires to destructive storms- it’s been a really rough summer.— Andrew Barr MLA (@ABarrMLA) January 20, 2020
My car copped a golf ball sized hail stone and thousands of others fared even worse.
It will take a while to clear all this up and there may be more storms tonight.
Keep an eye on https://t.co/XBo9SHtF7qhttps://t.co/0fDgiZsazcpic.twitter.com/QE74jI6ILc
The Specialist Intelligence Gathering Firebird 100 helicopter flew over the ACT on Monday afternoon. It was conducting a damage assessment from the sky.
- Send your photos and videos of the hailstorm and its impact to email@example.com to be included in our coverage.
Countless people were inspecting their heavily damaged cars in the carpark next to the John Gorton Building. Windows in the building, which houses the Department of Environment, were damaged, too.
One public servant who didn't want to be named said her Kia Sorrento was a write-off. The sun-roof and wind-screen were shattered and heavy rain had drenched the inside of the vehicle. The roof had collapsed with the impact of countless hail-stones the size of golf and cricket balls. "Every single panel has been damaged," she said.
She said she had called the insurance but the company had told her that there were no assessors available because they had been sent to Melbourne.
Tow trucks were booked out.
The Australia Institute senior climate researcher Tom Swann, who works in Manuka, was one of many readers to send in pictures.
"It feels pretty surreal. Canberra's gone from apocalyptic bushfire smoke and the worst air quality in the world, to a torrent of golf ball sized hail stripping the leaves from trees and knocking birds out of the sky," he said.
A tree fell on Northbourne Avenue, affecting traffic.
Video posted online also showed a roof leaking at Westfield Belconnen, and the hailstones were described as being "like bullets" as they punctured the roof of the National Film and Sound Archive.
116 km/h #wind gust at #Canberra Airport & large #hail across much of the city from severe #thunderstorms which are now tracking across south east #NSW. Hundreds of calls for assistance to @ACT_ESA Check radars for current situation https://t.co/wWo20wHYwL@NSWSES@nswpolice#cbrpic.twitter.com/8VjQMOqVCc— Bureau of Meteorology Australian Capital Territory (@BOM_ACT) January 20, 2020
There has been significant damage to the Winchester Station in Belconnen in photos seen by The Canberra Times. It has reportedly affected the intelligence centre. Belconnen Basketball stadium is reporting damage to the indoor courts.
Images posted online also show considerable damage to glasshouses at the CSIRO.
The ANU has issued a "shelter in place hail event" alert, telling staff and students to "shelter in place if it safe to do so ... There may be more more storm fronts on the way so travelling at this stage is not advised". It announced on Monday afternoon it would be closed on Tuesday and staff were advised to work from home.
"Assessments are ongoing, but we know there is damage to a large number of buildings. We acknowledge some of you may need to come on campus to make arrangements for damaged vehicles. Water and debris may affect accessibly to some parts of campus. Please do not come onto campus unless it is essential," it said in a statement.
It also forced the closure of the National Museum of Australia for the day.
"Storm damage included torn external roofing near the main entrance; damaged external shade cloths; roof leaks in corridors, the cafe and galleries; and damage to cars in the museum carpark," it said.
ACT Ambulance Services have treated two people for minor injuries sustained during the storm. There have also been several reports of injured wildlife.
Bureau forecaster Abrar Shabren said storm activity had been recorded across the ACT but parts in the north had been hardest hit.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT State Emergency Services had been stood up to respond to the impending storm.
People have been advised to move their cars under cover or away from trees, secure loose items around the house, yard and balcony, keep clear of creeks and storm drains and not to walk, ride or drive through flood water.