‘All hell breaks loose’ as rain, hail, tornadoes, lash SEQ

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Destructive winds and large hailstones have smashed parts of south-east Queensland as tornadoes formed near Kingaroy and two women and an infant were injured when hail smashed their car’s windows further west.

Earlier in the afternoon, seven-centimetre hail smashed tiny Kumbia, north-west of Dalby, while three-to-five-centimetre stones fell from Gympie east to Proston. More than 4000 homes were still without power, mostly in the Gympie region, at 7.30pm on Thursday.

The State Emergency Service was called out to 280 jobs, mostly for hail damage, leaking roofs and fallen trees in the Kingaroy, Gympie, Fraser Coast and Maryborough areas.

Gympie residents saw hail the size of golf balls, trees falling, debris and items as big as a trampoline get thrashed against a gate due to strong winds.

Melinda Ellison said there were “cyclonic winds and hail” coming in a horizontally.

“I have never seen hail like that before, it was really loud and extremely scary as I was home alone,” she said.

“It was so loud like a freight train going through the house.

“The hills around us looked like ski fields … we are still without power, as is most of Gympie.”

A woman in her 70s, a woman in her 20s and an infant were taken to hospital with cuts and bruises after hail smashed through their car windows on the D’Aguilar Highway.

A Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman said the trio was taken to the Kingaroy Hospital following a call just before 1pm.

But the worst of the storms appeared to have passed north and inland of the Sunshine Coast.

Gympie copped a 98km/h wind gust and 42 millimetres of rain, while 76 millimetres of rain fell at Noosa and 80 millimetres fell at Mingo Creek in the Wide Bay. Blackwater, much further north and west of Rockhampton, recorded a wind gust of 144 km/h.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jonty Hall said two tornadoes appeared to have formed throughout the afternoon, one in Tansey, about 60 kilometres north of Kingaroy, and another in Coolabunia, on the town’s outskirts.

The Coolabunia cell continued east for some distance but was downgraded to a storm by the time it hit Gympie.

Coolabunia dairy farmer Damien Tessmann said his family had never experienced anything like the storms before.

“My family have been in dairy for 120 years and I’m a fifth-generation farmer but we’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

“We’ve had partial damage to the dairy’s roof, which has exposed of all our equipment and computers.

“We’ve lost a silo and crop of feed that was knee high but now it looks like someone has hit it with a whipper snipper. It’s down to nothing.”

Mr Tessmann said he was in a mad rush to keep his cattle safe and to secure farming equipment.

“I was taking cows to get them in there and I was watching the black clouds moving fast and an afternoon fog coming in, then next thing you know all hell breaks loose,” he said.

“My uncle’s house is on the property and his windows were smashed and he lost a roof so the kitchen is all exposed, it looks like a swimming pool.

“We’re all a bit shocked.”

In Kingaroy, Denise Keelan said she would not test fate again after being caught in the thunderstorm on her way home from work.

“I was in Nanango working and thought I’d make it home and I chose the road that didn’t have a lot of trees in case,” she said.

“If I had five more minutes, I would have made it home but I pulled over on the side of Peterson Drive and I wasn’t the only one.

“You couldn’t see anything ahead so you didn’t have the hope of driving through the hail and rain.”

The Kingaroy resident was glad her car only received a few dents after staying put on the side of the road for at least 10 minutes until the worst passed through.

“It came very fast. You could see the clouds forming but I thought I would make it because every other storm this week so far had missed Kingaroy,” she said.

“It was very noisy and I was more worried about the windows smashing because it was quite big hail, it would have been two to three inches.”

The worst of the weather had cleared across the south-east by 6.30pm, when the bureau cancelled a severe storm warning that had stretched from Rainbow beach to Stanthorpe.

The tornado threat had eased an hour earlier as areas including Wide Bay, Darling Downs and Granite Belt, southern Capricornia and the southern Central Highlands and Coalfield braced for dangerous storms with large hail and winds.

At the time, the bureau warned very dangerous thunderstorms south-west of Gympie and Proston were expected to continue their north-east track, with very large hail and destructive winds within the cells’ cores.

Bureau forecaster Aditi Sharan said the rain was expected to continue in Brisbane on Thursday night.

Nanango MP Deb Frecklington, Queensland’s state opposition leader, said the storms had hit hard.

“People are shaken up – it was a huge storm system and there may be more storms tonight and over the weekend,” she said.

“The coming days are going to be tough for a lot of people in my community as they clean up. We are a resilient bunch but this will test us.

“A lot of farmers were getting ready to pick their crops at this time of year and this will be a massive setback.

“I urge everyone to stay safe and stay indoors tonight and listen to the authorities.”

by Jocelyn Garcia (2018, October 11) Brisbane Times

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Kyrie Wagner