Much like the other day in Brisbane, and 2008 storms in South-Eastern Queensland happen fast. Perhaps faster now. This one from over a decade ago didn’t leave me much time.
Thie storm began with a small white grey cloud. It seem to tumble and twist like flying cotton candy. I watched it for a while fascinated and distracted. Then a stray thought occurred to me. Why was it moving so fast?
It was still sunny, hot and humid. There was no wind at that stage, not a breeze, not a whisper. Being a typical Queensland day we had all the doors and windows open, hoping to catch a touch of cool.
I then looked behind the little cloud. As we were then living on top of a small hill, I had a good view south-west. Usually I could see the mountains. As I looked from west to east the sky was a moving grey tsunami. The mountains were swamped, enveloped in a moving morph of black grey cloud. As I looked more closely, I could see that the clouds weren’t entirely grey. They were changing colour in front of me. I had the distracted thought that they looked like bruises. Green, purple and even yellow shades swirling and rotating.
Then another stray thought occurred to me. These are snow clouds. The last time I had seen clouds like this I was living in Canberra. My mind started to wander again. But it doesn’t snow in sunny south-east Queensland.
This was a serious storm. It’s speed left me little time to prepare.
I grabbed the first thing near to me. I snatched up my youngest son and ran inside. I plopped him near the door and shut it. I just hoped he didn’t sense my rising panic.
Quickly, I upended the outside tables and put the chairs inside. Once inside I closed all the windows. I was running now.
I ran to the front of the house. I shut and locked the front screen and slammed the front door. I sprinted through the house to the main bedroom to do the same. Now I was in a rapid routine. I had done this battening down routine quite a few times before.
By the time I got to the bedroom it was too late. The storm had arrived. The rain was like sea-spray. The wind started to howl and rise in volume. I thought for a second I was on a sailing ship rounding Cape Horn and would be swept away.
I shut the bedroom door and screen. The next thing I knew I had thrown myself full length on the bedroom floor. There had been an explosion. I looked outside and saw flotsam and jetsam. Piles of mulched leaves and branches had already filled the porch. I couldn’t see the front yard trees at all for the sheets of rain.
Then the sky roared at me and the house. I found my children and ushered them into the hallway which was the perfect centre of the house. I huddled them together to ensure they felt safe but felt that at any moment they wouldn’t be. The sky roared even louder. I still don’t know how long we waited. Then it stopped silent.
Once disaster has been averted, I had a sense of relief. That was followed by the false belief that nothing really happened. In that state of mind, I went out the backyard. The first thing I saw were silver grey sheets on our back fence about 50metres from the house. It was the remnants of our next door neighbour’s shed in pieces in our back yard. My distracted thought was why can I see the back fence at all. We now had no trees. We had a yard of twisted limbs, twigs and branches. That would be tomorrow’s problem : a cleanup for me while I watched the birds that normally visited try to find a place.
Then I went out the front. Apart from a mulch heap of leaves and branches the trees at the front were intact. Except for one. The largest tree was split in two. Half the trunk had twisted and fallen and was suspended by a remaining branch. I still have no idea if it was lightning or wind.
It was only when our neighbours arrived to retrieve their shed, I realised the storm’s full effect. They had been extremely lucky too. Much like the people from Brisbane the other day.