Hailstones like tennis and golf balls fall around Sydney

Hailstones the size of tennis and golf balls have damaged homes and thousands of cars around Sydney

SYDNEY -- Hailstones the size of tennis and golf balls have damaged homes and thousands of cars around Sydney.

Images on social media showed dented cars, broken windshields and a hazardous, snow-like landscape during the Australian summer.

The Bureau of Meteorology called the bad weather Thursday evening the "worst hailstorm in 20 years." Some hailstones that fell in western Sydney and its suburbs were 5 to 8 centimeters (2 to 3 1/8 inches) in diameter.

The Insurance Council of Australia counted more than 25,000 claims Friday, three-quarters of them for vehicle damage, and expected the number to grow sharply.

New South Wales emergency services received hundreds of calls during the night. State Emergency Services spokesman Christopher Mawn said many involved homes where rooms were uninhabitable and ceilings had collapsed.