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Destructive storm hits homes near Warwick

By Fidelis Rego and staff, Thursday June 13, 2013 - 11:37 EST
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Authorities say six homes lost their roofs in Pratten. - ABC
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Damaged farm shed at Bony Mountain after a destructive storm swept through the area, June 13, 2013. - ABC

Residents say a super cell storm that tore through their town on Queensland's Southern Darling Downs last night was one of the worst they have experienced.

Witnesses say the storm front was 100 metres wide, cutting a swathe through Pratten and nearby Bony Mountain, north-west of Warwick about 9:00pm (AEST).

Authorities say about six homes lost their roofs, a business and silo have been destroyed, while trees and powerlines have been ripped down.

Paramedics say one man was treated for minor leg injuries.

Ergon Energy says it could take most of the day to restore power.

Like an 'earthquake'

Pratten resident Bronwyn Tickle says it was a terrifying experience.

"I've been here 18 years and this is the worst I've ever seen," she said.

Local Darren Cameron says it was like an "earthquake going through the place".

"It was unreal - I am looking at all the devastation down through the valley where it's all gone through and taken out all the trees," he said.

"I was one of the lucky ones - it's quite a broad area, a few kilometres wide where it's gone through.

"There's an old fella down if road who is building his house and everything else that's completely flattened, the poor bugger.

"Another fella escaped with his life."

He says he is surprised no-one was more badly injured.

"If you seen it you would be saying people are lucky to walk away," he said.

"It remains me a bit like when Cyclone Tracy hit - you get bits of roof sheeting embedded in the trees and wrapped around posts and through the roofs of houses.

He says he has not experienced many bad storms in the region.

"I've been here for the last six years - I am not really classed as a local yet - but nothing like this, mate, absolutely nothing like - this it was just a freak," he said.

"I thought I was in an earthquake.

"I remember when I was in Newcastle, working at the Hawkesbury when the earthquake went through there and hit back in 1988, I think it was.

"That's what it felt like - the ground was shaking - just felt like we were was in an earthquake."

Storm clean-up

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) spokesman Lindsay Hackett says emergency services doorknocked homes to offer help throughout the night.

"The intensity of the cell that went through obviously was a surprise I'm sure to many people down there," he said.

"There was lots of trees down, sort of a lot of livestock wandering on the streets - cattle, kangaroos and such.

"It was a fairly intense storm system that went through that particular area, but it appears it was mainly confined to a path of about a few hundred metres wide."

The State Emergency Service's (SES) Warwick district controller, John Newley, says crews worked into the night to clean up the damage.

"Only 60-odd metres wide - everything in that path got badly damaged and outside of that zone the leaves are still on the trees," he said.

He is expecting more requests for help as the clean-up begins this morning.

Southern Downs Council emergency coordinator Peter See says all available staff have been sent to Pratten to help with the clean-up.

"Trees down - we've had council work crews working through the night making sure the roads are clear," he said.

"We're currently having day shift council workers going into the area to assist with the clean-up of the area and will assist with people that have issues on their properties."

Rare winter storm

Weather bureau spokesman Bryan Rolstone says the storm had tornado-like characteristics.

"Particularly violent, with winds and big hail but I think the thing was the wind gusts with this particular storm being night, you never really know but certainly there would have been very strong gusts," he said.

"Supercells can produce a tornado but not all the time - sometimes they will get the rotation but it is not quite there.

"It didn't last very long and it eventually weakened into an ordinary thunderstorm and moved down to New South Wales."

Mr Rolstone says it is rare for such severe storms to form in winter but last night all the elements lined up.

"With all that rain that we had, the air was stacked with moisture, which you would have in late spring and summertime," he said.

"Although the temperatures weren't high, but generally the background conditions were enough for thunderstorms to form and the possibility of severe cells there.

"You have to get all the factors lined up just right to get the thunderstorms, and then one cell goes to the next level."

Authorities say powerlines have been ripped down across the region and many could be without electricity for up to 24 hours.


© ABC 2013

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