Sixty-five CSIRO greenhouses were destroyed by intense hail in Canberra yesterday, likely wrecking years’ worth of research on climate-resistant crops.
ABC reports the CSIRO’s Black Mountain facility was pummelled by hailstones as large as golf balls yesterday afternoon, shattering countless glass panels and leaving vulnerable plants susceptible to the outside world.
CSIRO chief operating officer Judi Zielke told the national broadcaster “we’re really feeling for our scientists” who “have spent years working on some of the projects in there.”
— Saul has Gone to mastodon (@saul_newman) January 20, 2020
Much of the work focussed on sustainable crops, with the end goal of propagating strains of wheat, barley, cotton, and legumes capable of surviving adverse conditions like last year’s horrific drought.
The Canberra Times reports one researcher rushed to the site to cover their work during the storm. It is not immediately clear if their work was salvaged, but Zielke said “most of those projects will be totally lost.”
The full extent of the damage will be examined today.
Fortunately, nobody was injured at the site.
Reports of 4-5cm hail in Canberra with a severe storm earlier this afternoon. Further storms are possible. Keep up to date with warnings here: https://t.co/WwMKAwqVNM and ensure you are storm ready by following these handy tips: https://t.co/dOCvpT15v5 pic.twitter.com/JnXGVePW2U
— Bureau of Meteorology Australian Capital Territory (@BOM_ACT) January 20, 2020
The storm caused a spike in calls to the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA), which reported a stunning 1,900 calls for assistance before the day was over – nearly double the previous record for one storm event.
“It will take a number of days to get through every task,” the ESA said this morning.
“We ask Canberrans to remain patient while they wait for assistance.”
Footage and photos posted on social media shows the extent of the damage, with cars, houses, and even the Royal Botanic Gardens copping a beating.
The weather has cleared since the maelstrom and the Bureau of Meteorology predicts a moderate chance of showers in the afternoon.
That’s a small comfort to those whose property – and experiments – were damages in the onslaught.