Weather News

Freak storm 'like a horror movie' wreaks havoc in Whitsundays

Friday January 7, 2022 - 02:28 AEDT

When Jodie Adam popped to her local shop in Proserpine after work, she did not expect to be locked in as a wild storm lashed the Whitsundays. 

After days of sweltering heat and humidity, heavy rain pummelled the region in the late afternoon.

And while the reprieve from the heat was welcome, the ferocity of two separate storm cells was not.

"It was like a horror movie and reminded me of Cyclone Debbie," Ms Adam said.

"It came out of nowhere, everyone couldn't believe it.

"There was a man literally holding the doors to stop them from banging ? I was worried they might break."

She said one person was trapped in their car after temporary fencing was thrown onto their vehicle.

No warning

Many have taken to social media to voice concerns about the lack of warnings about storm cells.

Ms Adam described the event as "cyclonic".

"There were no warnings, nothing to tell us there was severe weather coming...we had no idea it was going to be so intense," she said.

"Our trampoline was pushed across the yard and the wind and rain was coming in sideways.

"My daughter was driving to pick up our dog and there were branches flying across the road."

Weather enthusiast Liam Leonard runs a local severe weather page on social media.

He said the event was likely to be a microburst, which delivers intense wind and rain with little to no warning.

"They are a falling column of rain and air and it sends down those really strong gusty winds and horizontal rain," Mr Leonard said.

"It's literally the cloud falling out of the sky and hitting the ground."

In a statement, the Bureau of Meteorology said storms in the Proserpine area didn't meet the criteria to trigger a severe weather warning.

A spokesperson said the automatic weather station at the airport recorded a maximum wind gust of 78 kilometres an hour, below the threshold of 90km/hr for a severe thunderstorm.

They said the decision was made based on evidence from radars, direct observations and convective analysis.

Intense but short-lived

The storms built quickly and the first cell hit just after 4:30pm on Wednesday.

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said it was a timely reminder that intense weather could come "out of the blue".

"This one caught us all totally by surprise, but it is storm season," he said.

"It's the small price to pay for living in paradise.

"There is resilience in the community, but we just need to make sure everyone, especially our new residents, are prepared."

Councillor Willcox urged people to check their local disaster dashboard to make sure they had their emergency kits organised.

"Make sure you have medical supplies, radio, batteries, torches, food and water," he said.

The severe storms caused significant damage to the power network, with supplies cut to 8,000 properties.

Power was restored to most people within 12 hours.


© ABC 2022

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