Icy blast from the past: 20 years since Middleton Beach hailstorm

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
The front of the Albany Advertiser on May 15, 2001.
Camera IconThe front of the Albany Advertiser on May 15, 2001. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

The sight of Middleton Beach looking like a snowfield is one many Albany residents never expected to see.

But 20 years ago, on Saturday May 12, 2001, a rare weather event led to just that.

A series of photos captured by John Watson from the Castlereagh featured on the Advertiser’s front page. At the time, Mr Watson told the Advertiser the hailstorm started at 10.15am and lasted for 10-15 minutes.

While the stones were not big, there were plenty of them.

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“I’ve never seen a hailstorm quite that severe before,” Mr Watson said.

Castlereagh staff tried to make a snowman out of the hail.

There were still some patches of ice on the ground at nightfall.

Despite the heavy hail, the only significant damage reported across the city was caused by a lightning strike.

Albany woman Dianne Bagley, whose daughter worked for Mr Watson at the Castlereagh, sold copies of the main front-page image at the hospital after the event.

That is why the photo can still be found in homes around Albany.

“I am a volunteer at the Albany Community Care and I have taken the photo in a few times for show and tell,” she said.

“It sparks memories for some, and those who didn’t live here then can’t believe it.

“I’ve lived in Canada, and to me that hailstorm was just like being in Canada.”

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