News State Queensland Southern Queensland lashed by wave of monster tornadoes

Southern Queensland lashed by wave of monster tornadoes

One minute this South Burnett front yard was a picture of sub-tropical greenery - the next, buried beneath a blitz of ice. Photo: ABC
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The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a tornado warning as “very dangerous” thunderstorm cells continue to hit parts of the South Burnett and Sunshine Coast, in south-east Queensland.

By 3:15pm [on Thursday], one of the storm cells passed directly over Rainbow Beach.

At 3:30pm, the BOM issued a tornado warning for “very dangerous thunderstorms north-west of Kilkivan”.

By 4:45pm, one storm cell had moved out to sea while another further north had reached Maryborough.

Nearly 6000 properties in Kingaroy and surrounding areas have lost power.

There have been reports of hail the size of tennis balls in the southern inland town of Kumbia and three people were earlier taken to hospital.

Three people were injured when large hail smashed through a car windscreen.

Hailstones bigger than golf balls damaged cars, smashed windows and left at least three people injured. Photo: ABC/Tiffanie Barbeler

The Queensland Ambulance Service said all three were in the same car, driving along the D’Aguilar Highway at Coolabunia, and were taken to hospital.

Coolabunia dairy farmer Damien Tessman said the storm that hit was like a cyclone.

“Usain Bolt’s got nothing on a farmer that all of a sudden can see a storm like that coming through, when I’m stuck out in the paddock with thousands of dollars worth of fertiliser. So we moved like the clappers,” he said.

Mr Tessman got caught as the storm hit, while trying to move 160 head of cattle to a safe place.

“It was amazing how quickly it moved. It would be honestly like a cyclone, there’s not a leaf left on a tree … the poor old cockatoo has been blown out of his tree,” he said.

He said there was damage to roofs and silos in the area.

“It’s really quite a lot of damage and definitely nothing seen like it before.

“My uncle, he’s lost the top of his house. Silos have blown in and all sorts of things. It really is quite a lot of damage, definitely nothing [I’ve] seen before.”

Mr Tessman said the rain water was running “everywhere”.

“I’m not sure how much rain we had. Feels like metres, the way that it came down,” he said.

He said the rainfall had initially been a welcome sight on his dairy property, but he had “got more than we could probably handle”.

It wasn’t just humans who were taken by surprise. This cockatoo was left soggy, shaken and crestfallen when the storm passed.

Teresa Francis was getting ready to pick peaches and nectarines at her stone fruit orchard in Kumbia in the South Burnett when the storms hit.

Ms Francis said she had lost all but five per cent of her crop, which would cost her about $1.5 million.

“We’ve gone from picking fruit this morning that was perfect, it was shaping up to be an unreal season, to probably 20 minutes at about lunchtime, and it’s all gone,” Ms Francis said.

“We have fruit that’s not under hail netting and that’s been wiped out,” she said.

“We’ve got fruit under hail netting, and the hail netting was older hail netting and it’s all ripped and the fruit under that’s all damaged.

“It’s heartbreaking, for 20 minutes for your livelihood to be gone.

“I feel sorry for a lot of our workers, they’re travelling and their caravans have been damaged, some of our workers live locally, their houses have had windows smashed.”

Brianna Reynolds, who works at the petrol station in Kumbia, said the storm passed in less than 10 minutes.

“It ripped through pretty quick but it was heavy. Out in the main street it looked [like it was] about six o’clock in the afternoon — it was dark and then it just hit,” she said.

“Very loud – couldn’t hear yourself think.”

BOM senior forecaster Jonty Hall said the storms were fast-moving and tracking towards the coast.

“They’ve been stronger than anything else around at the moment, and capable of producing damaging winds and very large hail,” he said.

“We’ve seen hail reported up to tennis ball size at this stage – it’s possible some of these storms could even be capable of producing hail stones larger than that, so it’s certainly capable of causing damage and being quite dangerous.”

Mr Hall said the cells were capable of producing damaging or even destructive winds.

“We’ve had some wind damage reported, lots of trees down [and] we’ve heard of some sheds being demolished,” he said.

“These aren’t likely to be the only two cells through the afternoon — there’s likely to be others to developing through that Darling Downs area and extending north-east towards the Wide Bay coast and Bundaberg.”

A more general severe thunderstorm warning is also current for the Wide Bay and Burnett and parts of the Central Highlands and Coalfields, Darling Downs and Granite Belt and South-East Coast forecast districts.

Heavy rain has also been falling across large parts of the Brisbane metropolitan area.