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Brisbane Super Storm: 18th January 1985
by Michael Maher

Friday afternoon 3pm.

Playing cricket at the the local school was very pleasent that afternoon as the temps were around 30C, with humidity around 65%. The forcast was for possible afternoon storms. I was keeping an eye out but could only see mid level stratus with cirrus on top slightly greying toward the south west. Hills were in our way so we couldn't make out severity. An hour later we called it quits and I said to Malcolm that we should head for Bartleys Hill for a better view.

We arrived at the lookout 5 minutes later that overlooked the city as the hill is only 3km to the north - east. " My god, what have we here " were my immediate thoughts. My friends reaction to the view were more explanatory but involved @#!$# hell. There was one other person on the lookout who turned out to be a metereologist. Let me explain the sight that will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. Towards the south, south west, west was a line of green towers.

Lightning ground strikes were eminating in front of the storm in the rain free area hitting suburbs in front of us. The sound the thunder made was like a funneling sound, as if it had occured in a pipe and then distored. ( May have been due to the high winds I think ). The clouds were as green as the grass in front of us. I remember saying to the other two how weird it is that the southern cell was colliding with the other two ( Heading nw, whilst the whole storm was moving east north east). During this stage the wind was constant near gale blowing into the storm from the east. It was the most constant wind I have experienced. I asked the meteoriologist what he thought and he replied " You had better get the @#$# out of here as he had never expeirienced such massive inflow winds to a storm in his life ". The decision was made to evacuate when we saw scud cloud being blown apart near the base, WOW that was a sight. We headed back home - 5 mins away. During a very high speed dash home ( as we knew then that we were in for it ) we had very very large rain drops falling, but these were very sparse. We arrived back at our houses ( we both lived opposite each other. Mal was looking at our house and visa versa ). I stood on the footpath 1 minute later with him as the whole area went totally still ( no sound from even the birds ). I remeber pointing toward the west and pointing saying, " Wholey hell , will you look at the clouds ( Scud ) moving ". The scuds appeared on the horizon and were overhead within seconds, whilst being dismantled along the way. We both ran back to our respective houses as we new the end was near, because I knew that this was not going to be your normal thunderstorm.

I stood there waiting under the house. All of a sudden I could hear the distant roar of branches snapping and large hail. It grew closer, whilst everything was still. Then BANG it happened. All at once we had vertical rain and vertical large hail ( a good tennis ball size ) and a large branch from a jacaranda tree fly in front of our house. The sound - picture a jumbo jet sitting on top of your house at full throttle. I was scared at this stage. My friends house disappeared from view the instant the storm hit ( only 20 metres away. )

Not 30 seconds had passed and I looked up at the underneath of our house. It was like someone had a firehose running in our lounge room, pouring through the floor boards. Then I thought " Christ " my mother was upstairs by herself. I raced upstairs whilst being lacarated by the hail. I wasn't prepared for the sight I saw. Mum was hiding in a corner of the lounge room screaming even though I couldn't hear her, we were only 3 metres apart. There was about a couple of centimetres of water in the lounge room at this stage, with a horrific torrent flowing from somewhere through the roof. I grabbed mum and forced her to the centre of the house. I ran back to move our TV that by now was destroyed. I had to cut the TV free as it was tangled with the stereo cords.

4 minutes had now passed. I looked around the lounge room and saw large hail hitting the lounge room walls as the hail was smashing its way vertically through the kitchen windows. I ran downstairs for some reason and grabbed my sisters plastic swimming pool to put in the lounge room. ( Don't know why i did that as it was useless and I recieved more cuts from hail in the process.) Upstairs mum was still screaming with the sound of a jumbo jet sitting on our roof. I ran around the house, and i tried to see what was happening outside. I couldn't see anything outside. The house is an old Queenslander that has louvres on 3 sides. The glass was flying from all sides. I stood at the front of the house and could only watch the windows being blown in one by one.

15 minutes passed when the roar turned into what you would expect to hear from a normal thunderstorm. I ran downstairs and was met by a 1/2 metre flow of water through the underneath of the house. Considering we lived on a hill - that was an indication of the rain fall intensity.

My view from the front of the house was devastating. There was not one leaf left on any trees. Our street was blocked at both ends fallen trees ( All large jacarandas ) of which a car was flattened. Tree bark was totally stripped on the southern side of tree trunks. Power poles / lines were down everywhere. Wide spread destruction had occurred throughout the northern suburbs of brisbane that day, and was declared a state of emergency by 6pm. Telephones were out for days and the same with the power. My sister was at Toombul and stopped in her car on the side of the street. When it finnished her car was in the middle of the road. She really thought that she was going to be killed that day. The next day there were still hail stones in garden beds and at the sides of houses. Every car that was out that day had severe hail damage, and you could still see that years later. Today you can still see the markings on concrete and trees from the hail.

It was strange though, because the sky had a strange colour to it for days later and the air smelt weird also ( like ozone ). That winter we had spring occurring in june as I suppose the trees were tricked into thinking it was winter after the storm, another strange fact.

They had to bring in glass from NSW in the following weeks as brisbane ran out. We ended up with 300 smahed louvres and new carpet and roo repairs - as the water was forced under our tin roof.

See also the artcile by James Chambers

Document: 9911-01.html
Updated: 13th January, 2003
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