It was 40 years in the making, but the ferocious hail storm only lasted 10 minutes. Ripping through the property with such intensity to uproot trees. Even the fruit and branches bore the brunt of the force.
Although the landscape was savaged, the storm brought with it such remarkable beauty. One could be forgiven to think the objects suspended in the lychee rows were an optical illusion.
Karen and Robert Martin weren’t home at the time of the storm. When we came up the driveway much later that night, we discovered the full force of the devastation. Neighbours described the storm as being cyclonic with hail sounding like bullets flying over the top. Pellets of pea-sized hail were strewn over the ground. Nothing was untouched. Shredded leaves and broken branches lay twisted and broken.
Mist had settled over the land, with an eerie stillness lingering in the air. We drove to the lychee orchard. Turning into one of the rows, the headlights lit up the most spectacular of sights.
Huge quantities of hail had been captured by the bird netting. The weight was so great, the netting stretched, forcing hail to gravitate towards the centre of the rows. As more hail gathered and weight increased, massive ice balls formed. The next morning we viewed the damage.
A large number of wind break lemon myrtle trees had snapped off at ground level. Dragon fruit plants were peppered with holes and even the posts bore indentations from the hail. Our PinksBlush harvest had recently started, but sadly we realised every single piece of fruit was spoiled.
Luckily, the lychee trees weren’t fruiting at this time of the year. As the storm came from one direction, only branches at the southern ends of the orchard rows were stripped of leaves.
Walking up and down the lychee rows in daylight hours was quite surreal. It was hard to comprehend the number and size of ice balls. The larger ice balls were about two metres in length, one metre wide and one metre deep, with an estimated weight of about one tonne each. One ice ball was so heavy it touched the ground. With clear sunny skies over the next week, these amazing natural sculptures slowly dissipated. The only reminder of their short-lived existence were the curved imprints still present in the stretched and tattered bird netting.