Severe Weather 2008 / 2009 Season

UPDATE: Wed 16 Nov 2011

It's the third anniversary of this storm and while I'm not in the habit of posting other people's material, this is probably the most incredible video footage of this storm, from YouTube user indoorlightening. Make sure you watch it through. Just when you think you've seen the worst of it, it amps up again. Amazing stuff:

And the Channel 7 news coverage, including extensive damage and flooding to their own building, from YouTube user froz1983:

Wow, what an awesome day! One which produced one of the best gustfronts I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, one of the major papers was able to wheel out a "Storm death, destruction" headline. This was also one of the most destructive storms for at least several years:

  • A 20-year old man died while taking photos in a drain behind the Westfield Chermside Shopping Centre when he and a friend were overwhelmed by flash flooding

  • Extensive damage occured around the north-western suburbs of The Gap, Albany Creek and Ferny Grove with roofs blown off and trees and powerlines coming down onto houses

  • Four schools in the area were closed the following day

  • Qld Premier Anna Bligh likened the storm damage around The Gap to Cyclone Larry that caused $1bn damage in and around Innisfail in March 2006

  • Damage was caused to the Ferny Grove train line and a freight train was derailed at Caboolture

  • Over 225,000 Brisbane homes and businesses lost power

  • 24 hrs later and 50,000 homes are still without power

  • The Army have been brought in to assist in the clean-up

  • The roof of the The Gap Reservoir callapsed compromising the quality of the area's water supply prompting the call for locals to boil their tap water (which is difficult without power)

  • Experienced Energex field staff suggested the storm is the worst for 25 years

UPDATE Tue 18 Nov 2008: The stats keep rolling in as the severity of this event is realised:

  • Kevin Rudd visited the area this morning to assess the damage likening it to a war zone

  • Acting PM Julia Gillard announced national disaster relief

  • 4000 houses were affected, 300 badly

  • 85 houses have been declared unliveable

  • 11 mobile towers were knocked out preventing locals from reporting damage

  • 500 insurance claims have been made

  • RACQ has made an initial damage estimate of $25m but expects that figure to rise

According to the models, a surface trough was going to make it's way north during the day from the border ranges up through the north of Brisbane. My initial feeling was that storms might start around Warwick / Boonah as they normally do, but that they'd propogate more northerly through Marburg and Esk and maybe on to Caboolture.

The storms certainly propogated northward along the trough (despite the NE steering winds), but because they started around Kyogle (in NSW), their northerly track took the most severe parts of the storms right through the Brisbane CBD.

After watching storms firing up on the radar around the border ranges late morning and early arvo, we headed out around 2pm, just before Canungra got hammered.


Radar at 2:18pm

We couldn't decide whether to head down the Pacific Mwy towards Coomera or the Mt Lindsay Hwy towards Beaudesert. With the steering winds blowing to the NE, logic told me these storms were heading for the coast so the Pacific Mwy would've been better. I was also aware of the surface trough which implied that activity would continue northward, so the Mt Lindsay Hwy would've been preferable.

Well, we barely got out of Springwood before we got a view of the lovely gustfront on this cell.

Surprisingly, it started to weaken, and as far as we could tell just by looking at the storm, the more severe section was heading NE towards the coast.

Without really knowing what was to follow, we headed east along the Beenleigh-Redland Bay Rd, just to try and get a look at what seemed to be the more severe section to the south. The rain caught us for a while as we tried to outrun it, and we stopped just near Cleveland.

We sat here for a while without any rain to hinder us and watched a few great lightning bolts, but without much movement in the sky. The cell had lost all it's structure and I couldn't tell what was happening. I just assumed it was dying.


Radar at 3:54pm

Thanks so much to Drew for a radar update, we learned that there was more severe activity behind what we could see in front of us. What we didn't realise is that a cluster seemed to be combining and developing northwards along the trough. After Drew told us what was coming, we took off north as quick as we could. Apparently, the Bureau of Meteorology was calling this a "very dangerous storm" which was heading straight for the CBD.

It was frustratingly slow getting back to the Gateway Mwy where the rain reached us again. The sky was turning green and lightning was increasing as we tried to get out in front of the storm. Unfortunately, we had to contend with slow traffic, toll-booths, and sections of the highway taking us west into the storm before veering back north. Strong winds were filling the air with leaves and small branches. Thanks to Michelle for these pictures:

   


The Gap is hit at 4:42pm

Being chased by the big green monster is always thrilling and was no less so on this occasion. With my original theory that Esk would be a hot spot, I wondered whether we'd also get activity approaching from the west. This is indeed what happened. As if it wasn't hard enough to get out in front of this storm as we headed north, it was also side-swiping us from the west. The next two photos are also Michelle's:

The rain blowing across the highway here was moving incredibly fast. Shear was supposed to be low today, but something had changed and here it felt like being on the edge of a microburst (edit: which is ultimately what produced all the damage at The Gap). A minute later we had white-out conditions (Michelle's photo!):

I was losing hope that we'd ever get back in front of this thing, but thankfully we kept going. Up around Caboolture, we finally escaped it's grasp and were able to stop and get a decent look at it. It turned out to have one of the best gustfronts I've ever seen!

       


Radar at 5:12pm

We only had a couple of minutes here before it threatened to engulf us again so we took off.

This section of the Bruce Hwy has little in the way of views, so we ended up driving for longer than I would've liked without the chance to stop again for another look. By the time we finally did, the gustfront was weakening.

I only hoped now that we'd get a decent light show as it got dark.

   

Lightning was landing in the distance over a large area for quite some time, but after finding a spot with a reasonable view, we sat tight and were rewarded with a couple of great bolts.

   

The following is 100% crop of the previous image where the lightning makes contact with the ground!

Eventually, it started raining and we retreated to the car where I refused to stop taking photos. I wasn't given much in return for my persistence, except for one more reasonably clear CG. Most strikes were obscured by the now heavy rain.

All in all, a brilliant chase day.


Full radar loop 10am-1am


The next morning I had a chat with the Cage Breakfast show on Triple M about the storm: