Fast-moving thunderstorms have brought heavy rain with golf-ball-sized hail stones lashing the ACT and there could be more to come.
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.
The relatively brief, but ferocious storm swept into the ACT at lunchtime, moving from the northwest 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 has received more than 1200 calls for help, as of 2.50pm, and is warning people that the high volume of calls means there might be delay 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.
The Specialist Intelligence Gathering Firebird 100 helicopter flew over the ACT on Monday afternoon. It was conducting a damage assessment from the sky.
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.
A tree has fallen 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".
ACT Ambulance Services have treated two people for minor injuries sustained during the storm. There have also been several reports of injured wildlife.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned there could be more to come.
"There is a possibility we get some more ... that might be just the first wave," Bureau forecaster Abrar Shabren said.
Mr Shabren said storm activity had been recorded across the ACT but parts in the north had been hardest hit.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe warning on Monday morning as heavy storms formed west of Canberra with a northwesterly forecast to push the system into the city.
Emergency Services Agency ACT commissioner Georgeina Whelan said the ACT was in for an "intense couple of hours" and storm activity was expected to hit most parts of the territory.
"We normally see some storm activity to the north or the south of the ACT, not necessarily the entire region [but] today we could actually see from the north of Canberra right through to the southern tip of our borders actually being impacted by storms, winds and lightning strikes," she said.
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.