Canberra scientist describes 'unbelievable' moment hailstorm hit CSIRO glasshouses

CSIRO Chief Research Scientist Dr Evans Lagudah was caught inside a glasshouse when the storm hit Canberra Source: SBS News

Chief research scientist Evans Lagudah was left with a choice when he was stuck in a CSIRO glasshouse that was hit by a storm in Canberra - to be cut by glass or pelted by hailstones.

In his 32 years in Australia, CSIRO Chief Research Scientist Evans Lagudah had never seen a storm like it.

“The whole noise of the banging and the cracking, and seeing sharp glass falling around you, was just unbelievable," he told SBS News.

"It’s the sort of thing you see in hurricanes or tornadoes.”

Dr Lagudah, originally from Ghana, was in one of the 65 CSIRO glasshouses destroyed by the fierce hailstorm that ravaged Canberra on Monday.

He narrowly escaped serious injury while fleeing with a colleague.

“We looked up and we just heard this bang, bang, bang and the glass just starting smashing around us,” he said.

“So it was either stay in there and be cut with glass or get out and get hit with the hailstones...so we just went for the hailstones. We opened the glass doors from the vestibule and made it out quickly, as fast as we could.”

CSIRO
CSIRO glasshouses are seen damaged after Monday's hail storm in Canberra, (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
AAP

“When I actually got back into the office I actually realized I had a cut on my eyebrow, it was other staff members who saw blood coming down.”

“I did send a text to my family to describe what it was and I actually said to them when I ran out of that glasshouse I felt that I could beat Usain Bolt in a 100 metre race.”

The storm damaged more than 90 per cent of the 65 glasshouses, destroying years of scientific research by devastating crops of wheat, barley, legumes and cotton.

The research body had been growing the material on-site in an effort to improve crop sustainability but those efforts now appear to have been in vain.

“There is going to be an impact on milestones on projects that we work with stakeholders within Australia and globally,” Dr Lagudah said.

Dr Melania Figueroa, team leader in agriculture and food involved in the project, said the CSIRO was working with Africa and North America.

“You can imagine some of the damage that has happened here actually is going to have an impact in sending materials to these collaborators,” she said.

Younger team members and PhD students studying projects on tight timeframes would also be affected.

Dr Lagudah said there would be a delay in the delivery of materials in some cases losing one year’s worth of getting materials into the field, and in other cases up to three years.

CSIRO chief operating officer Judy Zielke said it would take weeks to assess the damage and eventually rebuild, but that could take twice as long as the fall out from a similar hail storm that hit Canberra in 2006.

Dr Evans Lagudah is just thankful he or his colleagues are all okay.

“I spent a lot of my time this morning just pondering what could have been.”

Source SBS News

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