Grapefruit-sized hail hits Australia's east coast

FILE PHOTO: Huge hailstones pelt into a garage in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia October 19, 2021, in this still image obtained from video. Courtesy of Greg Hateley / Social Media via REUTERS

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Record-sized hailstones fell across Australia's east coast this week, with ice pellets larger than grapefruits lashing residents in parts of Queensland, the country's metereology bureau said on Wednesday.

A thunderstorm struck the Yalboroo area north of Mackay, 954 km (593 miles) north of Brisbane on Monday, bringing record-sized hailstones measuring 16 cm (6.3 inches) in diameter, the Bureau of Metereology (BOM) said.

Video obtained by Reuters also showed vehicles and buildings at an industrial site in the Gold Coast being pelted by hail on Monday, with a man picking up one hailstone the size of a golf ball and showing it to the camera.

Giant hailstones are very rare, and only form under specific conditions, according to the BOM.

"Central Queensland had a combination of very cold, dry air and warm, moist air," BOM said in an emailed statement.

"Once these thunderstorms developed, the atmosphere was extremely unstable, which allowed hail to continue growing before gravity forced the hail to the ground."

The previous record of largest hailstones was set in 2020 during a storm in Queensland, BOM said.

A severe thunderstorm warning remained in place for parts of Queensland on Wednesday, with storms expected to expand across eastern areas of the state, according to BOM.

Australia has been lashed by wild weather in recent days, with a rare tornado recorded across northern New South Wales earlier this week.

(Reporting by Colin Packham and Lee Ying Shan; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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