Hailstones pelt Canberra in major storm

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The vast clouds of thick red dust have smothered inland towns such as Dubbo in the country's most populous state, New South Wales, adding to the run of unusual weather that has disrupted the country since hundreds of bushfires broke out in September. (Dale Appleton/DELWP via AP) This picture taken on December 31, 2019 shows a horse trying to move away from nearby bushfires at a residential property near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Despite the fires, Australians are encouraging tourists to return to the country, after it was estimated that the disaster has cost Australia around AUS$1bn (£529 million).

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Gabrielle Woodhouse also said fire-affected areas could experience run-off, flash flooding and roadways covered by debris.

Huge hailstones have lashed Canberra.

At least two people in the city were injured in the summer storm, which also brought down trees, caused flash flooding and left more than 3,000 homes were without power, Australia's ABC reported.

"The main reason we have exacerbated dust storms at the moment is due to drought conditions", Mr Notara said. "This dust storm was pretty much what we call atmospheric gravitational flow".

While the change in weather will help firefighters, it's also creating new challenges.

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Images and video posted to social media showed a cloud of dust many times the height of buildings baring down on Dubbo.

The hailstorm comes less than 24 hours after massive dust storms swept through New South Wales late Sunday afternoon, blanketing entire towns and blacking out the sun.

The recent rains have somewhat eased the drought in Australia. 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. They show his country in New South Wales that was charred and smoky 10 weeks ago and fresh green on Sunday after heavy rains.

Officials have warned that the effect of the fires, which have already burned for months, will be crippling for farmers, with the livestock toll exceeding 100,000 across Australia and the future hard to predict.

"Normal recovery processes will be less effective and take longer", ecologist Roger Kitching of Griffith University in Queensland told The Associated Press.

"Some species are more vulnerable to fire than others and some areas were more severely burnt than others, so further analysis will be needed before we can fully assess the impact of the fires on the ground", she said.

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