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BOM weather warning for south-east Queensland, with risk of giant hail, destructive wind gusts and intense rainfall

By Nibir Khan and Julius Dennis, Thursday October 14, 2021 - 01:43 EDT
ABC image
The foreshore at Redcliffe was battered with torrential rain overnight. - ABC

Severe storms have dumped torrential rain on southern Queensland, but the worst is yet to come, with the chance supercells will produce giant hail and even tornadoes later today.

A broad cluster of cells brought heavy rainfall to the Darling Downs and the south-east overnight and this morning, with totals closing in on 100 millimetres over the southern Gold Coast hinterland and Brisbane bayside suburbs.

The cluster broke up late on Thursday morning, but a second round of storms is likely to erupt again this afternoon.

A broad area from the NSW border to southern Capricornia and west to the Maranoa are in the firing line, with a potential for supercell activity in the south-east corner, including destructive winds and even giant hail. 

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Shane Kennedy said there was an "outside chance" of tornadoes forming in inland areas like the Darling Downs.

"It's a very low chance overall," he said.

"You certainly could see some of those very dangerous thunderstorms with those higher-end phenomena, including destructive wind gusts and giant hail ? that's hail five centimetres or more ? [and] intense rainfall.

"[It's] more likely to be those inland areas today and any that occur should be quite isolated so it'll only be a few places potentially in the firing line.

"But ? I certainly couldn't rule out a tornado or two today."

Mr Kennedy said the "danger zone" is likely to be west from Brisbane.

"So in the Darling Downs, Lockyer Valley and then up into the Wide Bay and Burnett, sort of around Kingaroy and Gayndah," he said.

"It's still expected to be the primary danger area, but it certainly could be anywhere south of Rockhampton today could be the main danger zone.

"[We're] expecting those to track east so anything that gets going further west does have a potential to track through the Brisbane suburbs in the afternoon and evening today."

Queensland's Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan said there were three swift water rescue crews ready to respond in the Ipswich, Beenleigh and Gold Coast regions.

"Also all regions have additional capacity to stand up additional swift water resources should conditions worsen," he said.

The BOM said the system is expected to be slow moving and could potentially hang around the coast until Friday morning, before dispersing and bringing the risk of storms inland and "parcels in the north-east as well".

"There's still a potential for severe storm risk during the first part of Friday about the south-east until that trough moves through, and then we get this drier air following," senior metrologist Felim Hanniffy said.

Storm right on cue

Mr Hanniffy said the storm would be "right on cue" for south-east Queensland for this time of year.

"October is essentially the start of the severe weather season, so historically it's the time of year when you start to see this type of setup and this kind of potential for severe storms," he said.

He said today's storm would be comparable to the one that hit the region on Halloween last year.

"Last year as well we had quite a bit of storm activity, particularly through October and early November and you might remember on Halloween there were really significant hailstorms about the south-east as well."

That storm caused significant damage to homes in Brisbane's west.

Fire risk this weekend

The BOM is predicting temperatures will rise after the storms clear.

Sadly, the prospect of a sunny weekend brings with it potentially "elevated fire dangers".

The weather change poses fire risks, in particular around the south-east.

"Potentially you could see some severe fire danger as well, which would trigger a fire weather warning," Mr Hanniffy said.

He said the three factors of drier air flow, gusty winds and warmer temperatures "really bring in those elevated fire dangers".

"Particularly during the second half of Friday, post that trough, and also on Saturday as well, given that you'll still have those breezy westerly conditions around."

Dam unlikely to see consistent rainfall

With the threat of water restrictions hanging ominously over the region, the water levels of the Wivenhoe Dam are unlikely to see significant change due to the storm.

Mr Hanniffy said despite the dam receiving good rainfall on Tuesday, and the chance that it "could see some locally heavy falls" today, this was not the type of weather that could drive real rises.

"Storm activity tends to be a bit more localised rather than when you have a more widespread rain event like we had earlier [this month], so it's going to be pretty sporadic in nature.

"There will be a couple of falls, probably not enough to have any meaningful effect on the Wivenhoe dam."


© ABC 2021

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