STORM CHASING 2014-2015

Where to start. How about some stats:

  • 141 kmh wind gust at Archerfield (flipping and writing off 7 planes and a helicopter)
  • Cricket ball hail
  • Flash flooding
  • 58 suburbs affected
  • 550 homes required tarps
  • 90,000 lost power
  • 12 people injured (not seriously)
  • Almost $150M damage estimated across 21,000 claims - but insurers believe this is only the tip of the iceberg as more claims are made in the coming weeks
  • Worst storm since 1985

As I've pointed out previously, most storm chasers prefer to stay ahead of the storm thereby avoiding risk of damage or injury. So we often don't experience the fury of a storm that members of the general public do who get caught in it.

I chased from Beaudesert, watching the storm develop as it tracked up Mt Lindesay Hwy to Brisbane. Here's the view from Beaudesert as the storm started to get organised:

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Outflow winds on this storm were some of the strongest I've ever felt. Excited to watch developments under the RFB (rain free base) I never got too far ahead, which cost me later on. Being so close necessitates an exit strategy. The NW edge was looking interesting so I looked for a NW road. I found one that went to Kagaru (just NW of Woodhill) and took a few more shots:

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Unfortunately, my exit strategy went out the window:

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I was then forced to drive into the storm a bit to get back onto the Mt Lindesay Hwy. I stopped again just S of Greenbank as the storm showed no signs of weakening:

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Again with the NW edge looking the healthiest, I continued NW to Springfield then N on the Centenary Mwy towards the city. I planned to stop at Archerfield Airport but I was out of time so I continued N.

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The next port of call was Mt Coot-tha, but thanks to Brisbane's peak hour traffic, the storm was still nipping at my heels so I kept going wondering where to head next.

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I considered heading directly towards Sandgate or Redcliffe, but unfortunately the choice was taken from me. The storm caught me at the southern end of Milton Rd. When this happens during a busy Brisbane peak hour, there is little left to do but call the chase over and turn around, which is what I did. I received strong winds and heavy rain as I got back onto the Centenary Mwy and saw plenty of small branches on the road and flash flooding, but was stunned to later hear of the carnage that occured just up the road from where I was.

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Activity persisted into the evening with a number of offshore storms producing lightning as I lay in bed. I may have stayed up longer were it not for a 2am start the next morning.

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Despite not being in the thick of it, this was an exciting chase for me, surfing the outflow for 60 kms, being forced directly into the storm, experiencing very strong winds and driving through flying tree debris.

One thing to note though. While this storm did produce a 141km wind gust, it was not particularly unique or "super" as the media have been labelling it. Storms of this nature occur on a fairly regular basis through the Darling Downs and SE Qld. The major difference this time is that it was at its most ferocious in a highly populated area, thereby causing a lot of damage and costing the community millions. It may have been the costliest storm since 1985 but it certainly was not the strongest - for many other more severe storms have occured is less populated areas.