Golf Ball-Sized Hail Hits Canberra, Severe Storms To Impact NSW Next

Golf ball-sized hail is shown at Parliament House on January 20, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. 

Hail stones as large as golf balls hit Canberra on Monday, with authorities warning it wasn’t the end of the severe storms that were heading south east from the Australian capital into New South Wales. 

The Bureau of Meteorology informed residents at 5pm AEST that “damaging winds, possibly giant hailstones and heavy rainfall” were expected for parts of Sydney, Gosford/Wyong, Wollondilly/Wingecarribee and Greater Wollongong.

On Monday afternoon it was confirmed the storm had a gust of 17km/h at Canberra airport, and locals were warned to move cars undercover and not drive on flooded roads.

Golf ball-sized hail is shown at Parliament House on January 20, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. 

Australian Parliament House tweeted a photo of the 5cm hailstones that surrounded the building as a result of the severe weather conditions.

It comes after golf ball-sized hailstones similarly hit various parts of Victoria on Sunday, with social media users showing what they collected from their backyards.

One social media user on Twitter, @Peteshakes, said his daughter was out collecting buckets of the hail in a “lifejacket just in case”.

Another social media user who gave his name as Adam said that the storm damaged his solar panels on his house.

Shoppers at a Woolworths in Melbourne suburb Templestowe were forced to evacuate on Sunday after the supermarket’s roof collapsed when hailstones fell through. 

Today’s storm had a gust of 117kmh at the airport and hail to 5cm. There is a slight chance of further storms tonight. Latest weather forecast and warnings here:

— Bureau of Meteorology Australian Capital Territory (@BOM_ACT) January 20, 2020

Reports of 4-5cm hail in Canberra with a severe storm earlier this afternoon. Further storms are possible. Keep up to date with warnings here: and ensure you are storm ready by following these handy tips:

— Bureau of Meteorology Australian Capital Territory (@BOM_ACT) January 20, 2020

⚡⚡ A Detailed Severe #Thunderstorm Warning for DAMAGING WINDS, LARGE, POSSIBLY GIANT HAILSTONES and HEAVY RAINFALL for parts of #Sydney, Gosford/Wyong, Wollondilly/Wingecarribee & Greater Wollongong. For latest warnings visit:

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) January 20, 2020

Meanwhile overwhelming amounts of dust swept across Central West of NSW on Sunday, with social media users sharing images of brown clouds across a dark sky in Dubbo, Parkes and surrounding areas. 

“I’m just over it,” said Tanya Fulton, manager of the council swimming pool at Tottenham, a town of 300 people about 500 kms west of Sydney, which was closed on Saturday because of dust in the water.

“I couldn’t even see the bottom of the big pool, and the toddlers’ pool was all mud,” Fulton added by telephone to Reuters. 

Severe storms are forecast to continue in many fire-stricken regions of New South Wales and Queensland, including areas that have not seen heavy falls for years, weather officials in New South Wales said, slightly easing a three-year drought.

The 2019/2020 bushfire season death toll stands at 28, 10.3 million hectares of land has been burnt, a billion animals are feared to have perished,  thousands of people have been evacuated from holiday beaches, and more than 1900 homes have been destroyed.

With files from Reuters.

Australian Open: Serena Williams Aces First Round After Air Quality Concerns

MELBOURNE – Serena Williams put aside her concerns about the air quality at Melbourne Park as she breezed into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday to remain on course for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

Buoyed by securing her first WTA title as a mother in Auckland two weeks ago, the 38-year-old American great kept her stay out on Rod Laver Arena to a minimum with a 6-0 6-3 trouncing of Anastasia Potapova in under an hour.

The air quality was officially rated good on Monday but Williams had not forgotten the choking smoke from Australia’s bushfires that greeted her when she arrived in Melbourne earlier this week.

“I definitely was concerned, and am. I think it changes every day,” the eighth seed told reporters.

Serena Williams of USA plays a forehand during round one of the Australian Open Tennis at Melbourne Park Tennis Centre on January 20, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. 

“There is a lot of factors on how it can change. That is still a concern for pretty much everyone. Every day all the players and the tournament make sure that all the players are updated on what the play conditions would be like.

“It’s literally every day, we are just waiting every day to see how the air quality would be … Today, it seemed normal. Yeah, it seemed pretty good… It definitely felt like that.

Williams said she was particularly concerned because of the pulmonary embolism she suffered after giving birth to her daughter Olympia in 2017.

“I’m, like, ‘oh no, I’m already playing a little down than most people’,” she added.

“But we’ll see. Just have to focus on what happens and we’ll see what happens.”

Serena Williams of the United States of America celebrates after winning a game during the first round of the 2020 Australian Open on January 20 2020, at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia. 

The good news for Williams is that the outlook for the rest of tournament is promising, with the rain that has lashed Australia over the last few days helping contain the fires that have killed 29 people and millions of animals.

The rain also stopped play on the outside courts on Monday which means that Williams might have to wait another day to find out whether she plays Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek or South Korean wildcard Han Na-lae in the second round.

Her victory over Russian teenager Potapova to kickstart her 19th campaign at Melbourne Park was no great surprise given she has now lost only once in 74 first-round matches at Grand Slams.

“I felt like I started out really well, played really strong in the first set and just building on that,” she said.

“So, I feel like I can still improve and get better throughout this tournament, for sure. This is a good stepping stone for right now.”

An eighth title at Melbourne Park would bring Williams level with Australian Margaret Court as the most prolific Grand Slam singles winner in the history of the game ― a feat she said had been on her mind.

“I think it’s factored a lot into my game, and now it’s just more or less about doing the best that Serena Williams can do,” she said.

“Margaret Court was a wonderful, great champion. And now how great is Serena Williams?

“That’s it. That’s kind of what I have been thinking about the last couple of weeks and months. It definitely helps me relax a lot.”

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney

Joaquin Phoenix Pays ‘Joker’ Tribute To Heath Ledger In SAG Awards Speech

Joaquin Phoenix paid homage to the late Heath Ledger during his acceptance speech at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The actor continued his awards season win streak, claiming the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role award for his part in “Joker.” As he claimed his statuette, he paid tribute to Ledger, who played the character in “The Dark Knight,” as part of the inspiration that led to that riveting performance.

“I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favourite actor, Heath Ledger,” he said.

Ledger died in 2008 at age 28; the same year his film was released.

“I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor Heath Ledger.” Joaquin Phoenix thanks the late #DarkKnight star while accepting the #SAGAwards statue for #Joker

— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 20, 2020

Phoenix won the major category over Christian Bale for his role in “Ford v Ferrari,” Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” Adam Driver in “Marriage Story” and Taron Egerton in “Rocketman.”

In another classy move, before his tribute to the former Joker great, Phoenix highlighted how his fellow nominees had inspired him throughout his career.

Of DiCaprio, he said: “There would always be two other guys that I was up against and we’d always lose to this one kid…every casting director would always whisper, ‘It’s Leonardo.’ You’ve been an inspiration for over 25 years to me and so many people.” 

Moving on to Bale, who played Batman in “The Dark Knight,” Phoenix praised him for his consistently brilliant, never-bad performances. “It’s infuriating. I wish you would. Just suck once,” he said.

He praised Driver for his growth over the past few years, describing his recent performances as “beautiful, nuanced, incredible, profound.” 

Lastly, nodding to Egerton, Phoenix said, “I’m so happy for you” and “can’t wait to see what else you do.”

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