It was the latest wild turn in this most extreme of Australian summers.

Large hailstones have rained down on Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra over the past two days, destroying vehicles, punching holes in roofs and blanketing the lawn in front of Parliament.

Suddenly, a season of suffocating heat, bone-dry skies and voracious fires has given way in southeastern Australia to widespread thunderstorms. Skies once darkened by smoke are now brooding with clouds and rain — at least for a few days.

Hailstones were as large as baseballs. Wind gusts topped 70 mph. In some areas, an inch of rain fell in just 30 minutes. A few places experienced flash flooding. Thousands of people were left without power.

But other images from the region, including a wall of dust that swept rural New South Wales, offered a dramatic reminder that Australia’s drought — and the devastating wildfires it has fed — are far from over.

The rain began late last week, delighting Australians seeking solace after a year that was the hottest and driest on record. Actor Russell Crowe shared images on Twitter of his farm in New South Wales, which had been ravaged by fire but was now turning green.


Dozens of fires are still burning, some out of control, in New South Wales and Victoria. In Canberra, emergency workers who had been preparing to fight fires were ordered back to the city after more than 1,000 homes lost power.

In the northeastern state of Queensland, 19,000 customers lost electricity because of high winds.

Two tourists climbing a metal staircase in the Blue Mountains were struck by lightning, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Both were in a hospital in stable condition.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned that the storms would continue for the next few days. Hot and windy conditions are expected to return to many parts of New South Wales later this week.