Saturday, March 6, 2010

thank goodness I brought my plastic shoes to Melbourne

Early this week I got a suntan on my arms walking ten minutes to the post office on a cloudy day. You can therefore imagine my surprise when the heavens abruptly opened up today and a ridiculous freak storm of hail and rain flooded all of downtown and brought much of the state of Victoria to a standstill. We're talking serious hail here: most of the hail stones where I was were at least 12 millimeters, and some places saw hail the size of golf balls. This is not quite what one expects from a region currently experiencing its seventh year of drought.

I was in the center of the city when the hail started to fall. I quickly elected to stay put through the worst of the storm (not a tough call to make), boisterously congregating with my fellow shoppers amongst the stationary, souvenir T-shirts, and other odds and ends. The streets flooded. Rubbish bins and milk crates sailed down from Little Bourke street, turning right on Elizabeth and floating smoothly down towards Flinders Street Station. Every shop awning up and down the street began to leak (they're intended mostly to shelter from sunlight).

I found out later that the storm caused a disproportionately significant degree of damage given it's short duration. Hail stones smashed windows and damaged roofs throughout the region, and a number of people were injured when they couldn't get under cover.

Fortunately for me and those I was caught out with, people in our area nothing worse than mild discomfort and chill from literally wading through ice water. There's nothing like a bizzar, widespread, and disruptive but generally harmless shared experience to bring strangers together, and for us the rainstorm and its aftermath were consequently quite fun. Everyone had their phones and cameras out. We took pictures of each other and the half-submurged post boxes, exclaimed as the water level topped the bumper of the poor little Fiat just in front of us, and observed repeatedly how unusual this was for Melbourne.

I do hope the rain keeps up a bit, as Melbourne's water storages are currently at 34.6% of capacity. Much as I appreciate the rain, however, I think I personally will choose to stay out of it.

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