Halloween hailstorm one year on

It has almost been one year since the sky darkened on Halloween, Saturday 31 October 2020, and giant hail as large as 14cm in diameter battered parts of Ipswich.

Thousands of homes across the suburbs of Springfield, Springfield Lakes, Rosewood, Thagoona and Willowbank suffered extensive roof damage, resulting in collapsed internal ceilings and major water damage to internal structures as well as home contents.

Mayor Teresa Harding said while the hailstorm lasted just minutes, and almost one year on, the community is still piecing their homes and lives back together.

“The hailstorm left more than $1.05 billion in damage and 44,000 insurance claims lodged,” Mayor Harding said.

“In the hours after the storm hit, hundreds of families had no choice but to leave their homes and those families have had to wait months to go home and the most shocking part is, there are still 265 homes awaiting repairs.

“Only 67.56 per cent of residential property claims have been closed and impacted families continue to rely on ongoing support from their community while insurance companies and tradespeople work to repair the damage.

“Council will continue to highlight their needs on the long road to recovery.”

There was nine super cell storms and more than 296,000 lightning strikes across south-east Queensland during the event.

Three people were trapped inside a Springfield Lakes house after a tree collapsed onto the roof, but miraculously no injuries were reported across the region.

Many homes throughout the region were left without power.

Within 24 hours of the hailstorm, the Insurance Council of Australia declared the natural disaster a catastrophe.

A council-led Local Disaster Coordination Centre and Local Disaster Management Group was stood up immediately after the storm to lead a coordinated effort to assist residents.

Local Disaster Management Group Chair Mayor Teresa Harding and Deputy Chair Councillor Kate Kunzelmann met daily with about 30 representatives from across government and non-government agencies.

More than 2,000 people are estimated to have been provided with support at the YMCA Springfield Community Centre, which opened on Sunday 1 November as a drop-in support centre.

Representatives from insurance companies, Energex, Uniting Care financial advice, Lifeline, Department of Housing and Public Works, Ipswich City Council and Community Recovery teams from Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors provided face-to-face support while local businesses donated food and supplies.

A special recovery and reconstruction taskforce was established to engage with and co-ordinate key stakeholders to address the ongoing impacts and emerging issues in affected communities.

Halloween Hailstorm Recovery and Reconstruction Taskforce Chair Deputy Mayor Nicole Jonic said she felt, at that time, the recovery response needed further escalation.

“By March there was a sense in the community that, nearly six months on, many people affected by the hailstorm were still suffering hardship and ongoing issues due to the prolonged recovery and reconstruction efforts,” Cr Jonic said.

“We were able to authorise waivers of fees at council’s waste transfer stations for residents to dispose of storm damaged material and work more closely with the insurance industry and other stakeholders to provide the community with more information on assistance available to them.”

Cr Jonic said the community is holding a Breakfast in the Park on Saturday morning across the road from the Springfield YMCA Community Centre to come together and reflect on impact the once-in-a-generation hailstorm has had on their lives.

“I think it will be an opportunity to thank all of those who helped along the way,” Cr Jonic said.

“The SES, our orange angels, came from all over Australia to help this community and the Ipswich City unit recently won a state award for their response to the Halloween hailstorm.

“There were also many businesses and residents that extended a helping hand to those who needed it most.”

The Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) have undertaken audits of the 1,882 Ipswich properties damaged in the hailstorm.

The initial assessment immediately after the hailstorm identified 520 properties with severe damage, 602 dwellings with moderate damage and 652 properties with minor damage.

A February assessment found that 230 homes were still severely affected with a further 667 houses still having moderate damage and a further 245 houses had minor damage.

In May, of the 828 properties audited, work was yet to begin at 142 properties and 169 homes still required tarps on the roof.

That latest audit conducted in September 2021 found 86 per cent of properties have now been reconstructed.

There are 21 properties remaining with severe damage, 103 with moderate and 141 with minor damage.

Mayor Harding said council was now working with relevant agencies on what lessons can be learned from this disaster.

“The communities affected by the hailstorm should be congratulated on their patience and amazing resilience as they endured long waits, due to COVID-19 and unprecedented challenges,” Mayor Harding said.

“It has been a most trying year but when we look back there, there are so many worthwhile lessons to be learned such as the outstanding community-led recovery.

“The collaboration between residents, the business community, council and other agencies was ground-breaking in many ways and we will continue to develop protocols based on this disaster.”

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