Weather News

South-east Queensland mops up after giant hail smashes homes, leaves thousands without power

By Jessica Rendall, Jason Dasey, Anna Hartley and Tara Cassidy, Monday November 2, 2020 - 00:24 EDT
ABC licensed image
The roof of a Springfield Lakes home fell in after a major storm cell hit on Saturday. - ABC licensed

South-east Queensland is cleaning up after a series of violent thunderstorms left 95,000 households without power and saw tennis-ball sized hailstones force residents to duck for cover in homes near Ipswich, west of Brisbane.

Energex said it would continue working to restore power to more than 15,000 customers, mostly on the Sunshine Coast, who were still without electricity on Sunday.

"About 15,000 of those were on the Sunshine Coast and Noosa region, they had really big damage areas up there, extensive damage," Energex spokesperson Justin Coomber said.

He said the Sunshine Coast had more power lines brought down than any other area.

"Trees being blown over and power poles snapped in half … [in] the Sunshine Coast area and Gympie area we saw more than 200 power lines brought down in the height of the storm as well."

Mr Coomber is asking for patience as crews work to make repairs.

"We counted 413,000 lightning strikes throughout the day yesterday for south-east Queensland," he said on Sunday.

"That's a massive amount when we consider all the storms in the previous week added up to about just under 1 million lightning strikes for the whole week."

The State Emergency Service (SES) reported 1,898 incidents on Saturday, with 1,352 from the Ipswich area, which reported extensive structural damage.

State Emergency Service regional manager Peter Harkin said the Sunshine Coast region and Gympie had the most call-outs across the North Coast district.

He said during this time last year, SES crews were responding to bushfires, while this year call-outs have mainly been to storm aftermath.

"Most of the responses have been in relation to trees knocked over, flash flooding and power lines that have gone down," Mr Harkin said.

"Last year we were more focused on fires in our region, this time we're in storm season."

Hailstones as large as 14 centimetres crashed through the ceilings of many houses near Ipswich, including Rosewood and Springfield Lakes, leaving some dwellings uninhabitable.

'It was terrifying'

SES volunteers are continuing to help residents, including covering holes in the roof of Rosewood resident Paul Taylor's house, which was severely damaged by hail.

"It was hectic — we got water come in through the ceiling, gutters missing — loud, pretty scary," Mr Taylor said.

"Inside you couldn't hear yourself — it was that loud."

Mr Taylor said he bought ice blocks for the SES volunteers helping with his damaged roof on Sunday, as temperatures reached 31 degrees Celsius.

"They got jealous when the ice cream truck went [by] so I went and got them [ice blocks] — I am so grateful for them," Mr Taylor said.

Great grandmother Robyn McInnes said she had lived in Rosewood for close to 40 years.

"It was scary — all my life I've never seen hail that big," Mrs McInnes said.

The storms ripped paint from Mrs McInnes' walls, put holes in her roof, and destroyed the windscreens of both of her cars.

Mrs McInnes said she hoped her insurance would cover the damage.

"The cars are smashed — it was terrifying and the whole town is in a lot of turmoil today," she said.

"But the community looks out for each other — it's just a beautiful town."

Catastrophe declared by Insurance Council

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared a catastrophe for damage caused by the hailstorms.

It said insurers had so far received more than 5,000 claims, with insured losses estimated at $60 million.

The ICA said about 60 per cent of claims were for damage to motor vehicles and 40 per cent for damage to houses — mainly to roofs, skylights and solar panels, and interior damage to many homes.

ICA chief executive officer Andrew Hall said the hardest-hit suburbs included Springfield, Rosewood, Greenbank and Boronia Heights.

"The catastrophe declaration means insurers will prioritise claims from these hail-affected areas and will direct urgent attention to those most in need of assistance," Mr Hall said.

"Householders should contact their insurers before commissioning any repairs to their homes. They should ensure this work will be paid for under the policy."

RACQ spokesperson Lucinda Ross said the destruction was "unbelievable" and crews were ready to help those worst affected.

"As an insurer, this is the worst hail damage we have seen since November 2014 when Brisbane was pummelled by another ferocious storm," she said.

"We've had almost 1,400 claims come overnight and most of those are for vehicle damage.

"We've got assessors and repairers ready … but first and foremost, we want to get our builders out there on the ground to make sure those people who are in potentially unsafe circumstances can be helped."

'Mother nature hits hard'

"It was like a war zone," said Luis Mejias, who saw his father and mother-in-law's Springfield Lakes house severely damaged by hailstones that breached its roof and ceiling.

"It's scary and it's sad. They've worked all their lives to get this house and now they've got nothing until it's fixed."

Mr Mejias said his mother-in-law narrowly avoided serious injury when her house's ceiling collapsed as they took cover inside.

"While my mother-in-law was sitting at a table, my wife heard a creak and she yelled at her to get out of the way as the whole ceiling came down from the kitchen, dining room and rumpus room," he said.

"Stay safe [because] mother nature hits hard."

Springfield Lakes resident Tanya Knight and her family had to stay overnight at a friend's place because their house was "too dangerous" to stay in after storm damage.

"We were baking in the kitchen and a couple [of hail stones] came through the actual ceiling … I would never expect that in a million years," Ms Knight said.

"It felt like ages, but [the storm] was only about three minutes … it was very extreme."

No reports of major injuries

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) on Saturday warned on social media that large hailstones could be "life threatening" but there were no reports of major injuries.

SES acting commissioner Brian Cox said the storm was "the most significant one this year".

The SES was swamped by calls from 1:00pm on Saturday.

"Ahead of the storm, we sent out an emergency alert to 850,000 mobile phones to tell people to protect themselves and their property," Mr Cox said.

"We had hundreds of volunteers who have been activated all across the area.

"We helped many homes by putting up tarpaulins after major roof damage and flood inundation."

Calmer weather forecast

The BOM said Queensland could expect calmer weather on Sunday, with no more storms in the forecast, as the trough clears.

A high-pressure system will bring drier and warmer than average temperatures, with 33 degrees Celsius forecast as Brisbane's maximum on Sunday.

The stormy end to October meant that many Queensland cities and towns reported higher-than-average rainfall for the month.

Brisbane recorded 182 millimetres, well above its October average of 75mm

Rockhampton recorded 70mm compared to 50mm, Warwick 112mm compared 70mm, Roma 115mm compared to 50mm, and Longreach had 32mm compared to 22mm.

Despite the more benign forecast for this week, Mr Cox urged Queenslanders to download the free SES Assistance app to ensure quicker future service ahead of more wild weather this summer.

"We are going to see more storms like this in the months ahead, according to the Bureau," Mr Cox said.

"They might be of less duration, but they are very intense."


© ABC 2020

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