Behind the scenes of the 2023 Newcastle hailstorm

Last updated on 07 December 2023
When extreme weather hits, what happens next? At Allianz, the short answer is: a lot. This article takes a look behind the scenes of the severe hailstorm that battered the Newcastle area on 26 May 2023 – and how Allianz mobilised to support customers in the area. 
Newcastle hail assessment centre

It was an ordinary Friday with extraordinary weather.

Just before midday, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning, with the radar detecting storms near Swansea and Lake Macquarie.

Before the day was out, many people around NSW’s Hunter and Central Coast regions had witnessed a severe thunderstorm, with golf-ball-size hail causing a spectacular snow-like scene and a lot of damage in its wake.

Allianz Disaster Recovery Advisor, Hayley Slater
Hayley Slater, Disaster and Recovery Advisor at Allianz, was hard at work – even before the first hailstone hit. “We actually have a predictive near-time reporting functionality, with access to the early warning network,” she explains. “We can pull the data and tell how many of our customers are in the impact zone. We do checks with our customers– even before the event happens, where possible. We live and breathe this all day, every day.”
The May 26 storm was no exception. “We had reports around midday that hail was falling – not something we necessarily expected would happen that early in the year. We could see the claims beginning to come through in real time, so immediately pulled more staff in for phone support.”

At the same time, Hayley’s team was mobilising to support customers in the area. “We got in touch with our paintless dent removal (PDR) provider and they began scouring the centre of the affected area for a location to set up an appropriate assessment centre.”

This would become the Gateshead Hail Damage Assessment Centre – a temporary but high-tech location offering assessment of vehicles damaged by the hailstorm.

Despite including state-of-the-art light tunnels and 3D 4K scanning, which allow vehicles to be rapidly assessed, the Centre was constructed at rapid pace. “The storm was on Friday,” explains Hayley, “and by early the next week we were already calling back customers to book in at the new Hail Centre.” 

Customers could book a time slot at the Centre. Then at the assigned time, they would drive their vehicle through a light tunnel and receive a link by phone for booking in repairs when it suited them.

“We had the ability to book hire cars with the Disaster and Recovery Team (DaRT) there and then at the Centre,” explains Hayley, “to add to the easy and simple booking process where it suited the customer. Even where the customer’s car was unfortunately deemed a total loss, the customer would come and sit with us where we would process that total loss on the spot in some instances.”

The system made things quick – and most importantly, easy – for customers already dealing with a traumatic time. “Overall it took 20 to 30 minutes, and then the customer was left with certainty about when life could get back to normal for them.”

The seamlessness of the process surprised many customers, some of whom were bracing themselves for red tape.

“There can be a misconception that the claims process can be arduous, especially in disaster events, but we had consistently amazing feedback about how organised and efficient the process was,” says Hayley.

“At Allianz, we can rapidly mobilise our field presence and because we’re able to process and wrap up claims so quickly in some cases, it means we can get the customer back on the road sooner.”

For more information about the support available throughout the claims process following hailstorms, visit Allianz Claims, or contact your Allianz Account Manager.
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