'You could be next': Violent storms coming fast in Gympie
TWO violent storms that lashed the Gympie region in just over a month, one so forceful and unreal in nature it was dubbed "hailnado", may be a taste of what's to come.
Weather events in the Gympie region are getting more savage, according to Gympie's State Emergency Service area controller Dean Wardell, who led the clean-up team for both and has been in the industry for 27 years, 13 of them in Gympie.
"Storms are getting more concentrated and completely unpredictable," he said.
"It shows people must be prepared for the worst."
He said the recent severe weather events were part of an increasing climatic trend, one he first heard about from climate scientists a decade ago.
He said hotter summers where rain was falling on fewer wet days, but more intensely and potentially in destructive thunderstorms, were becoming the norm compared to spread out rainfall.
"We're not getting those days with 20mm of rain. It's just coming in hard and fast and hammering us," Mr Wardell said.
"The climates that we were getting in central Australia are now heading to the east and northeast."
The hail-loaded supercell which weaved a path of destruction through the region on October 11, dumped hail in a tornado-like whirlwind that ruined crops and damaged properties to a six-figure price tag that is still being counted.
It was fresh in the minds of residents when a second fierce cell struck last Saturday. Destructive winds and heavy rain took the remaining weak branches from trees, caused major power outages and kept the SES busy. The two storms generated 330 call-outs for SES teams.
Many of the homes still awaiting repairs from the earlier severe storm were hit again.
Mr Wardell said people who had lived here all their lives could testify to the change in weather pattern.
"SES members I've talked to have never seen anything like it," he said.
"I'd say it is extreme for what people are used to."
Mr Wardell said in both storms a tight path of destruction meant particular suburbs were more affected than others.
He said the October 11 storm comprised two parts: a cell that wreaked havoc on the southern end of the region, particularly the Southside, and a "tornado" element that went through Tansey, where one resident described the experience as comparable to Darwin's 1974 category four Cyclone Tracy.
The SES stalwart warned the concentrated nature of the storms made it hard to predict where future events would hit.
"It just picks and chooses where. You could be next."
He hoped the recent events helped throw complacency out the window.
"People need to be prepared for the extreme and the unknown," he said.
He said in case of large downpours, residents should clear house gutters and organise alternate routes and accommodation in case of flash flooding.
He said roofs should also be routinely checked.
"If everyone serviced their house like their serviced their vehicle it would be successful."