Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Ripping storm 1986

The following article was written by David Thomas, editor of the Bribie Times, in October 1986. David describes a storm that ripped over Bribie and left a trail of damage and debris ...

And it was a beautiful day on Bribie...

Eyewitness Account by David Thomas

Bribie Times, 10 October 1986.

At about 4.00 PM on Monday last, after having enjoyed one of its normal, beautiful Spring days, Bribie Island's peace and quiet was suddenly shattered by "the storm that came from nowhere". In the office of the "Bribie Times", situated right on the waterfront in Welsby Parade, Bongaree, the first warning I had of the approaching storm was an encroaching darkness, and thunder and lightning. Like most Bribie Islanders, I equated nothing more to this than a normal afternoon, Spring storm ... were we to be proved wrong!

When the storn hit at just after 4.00 PM its first act was that of a demented version of Dante's "Inferno". A howling wind signalled the storm's arrival ... a wide that, within seconds, stripped smaller branches, leaves and sand off the beachfront in front of our office. Then came the rain ... driven almost horizontal in the first frenzy of the storm ... interspersed with larger branches that were beginning to be ripped from the living timber of our beautiful, foreshore gums.

Across Kangaroo Avenue, the outside furniture from the Passage Milk Bar was bodily picked up and thrown hundreds of yards up the street. A sign, firmly fixed to the wall, was ripped from its fastenings and has not been seen since! The air was now filled with flying detritus and the windows of the office were actually bending under the pressure of the wind. In awe of the power of nature, we watched as this cyclonic blast of wind gradually blew itself out to be replaced by torrential rain.

But, it was not over!

About two minutes later the wind that did most of the real damage struck!

This raging, screaming second front, physically ripped limbs, as thick as a man's waist, from the trees. Driving these now lethal weapons at a force sufficient to impale anyone unfortunate (or foolish) enough to be caught outside, we watched in horror as two branches - flying as it thrown by a giant spearsman - arrowed straight through the front windows of the Passage Milk Bar and Muriel Wrigley's Travel office. The vacuum caused by the incredible power of this wind, actually opened the top of a steel Council rubbish bin across the street, and sucked the contents out as if it were a giant vacuum cleaner!

Although our office escaped any damage, Leane Clark had just managed to get back to the office in Jaccy Thomas's car before the storm struck.

Parked in Kangaroo Avenue with its back to the storm, the killer wind drove a tree branch of over 20 feet in length, through the back window of the car and ended up with its stump forced into the dashboard! The wind has physically pushed the car forward about four metres into the back of the car in front - and it had been in gear, with the handbrake on!

After the storm - large tree felled by the storm. 
Bribie Times v2(4) 17.10.1986 p. 6.

On driving along Welsby Parade to check on other damage the storm had caused, I was greeted with the sight of Mrs Donovan's two homes just past Schrag's Real Estate - one with the roof totally ripped off (it was found in the backyard of a house some distance away) and the other with major damage to the roof and windows at the front.

Power lines were down everywhere and broken tree limbs were hanging off all of the SEQEB lines along the Parade.

But, then I came across the real damage!

The Council Caravan Park at Bongaree must have been virtually in the "eye" of the storm. Virtually every caravan in the Park received some damage ... annexes were ripped down ... trees had fallen across vans - and how anyone was not killed was a miracle.

In the foreshore park opposite the Caravan Park, the damage was almost unbelievable. Trees that had been there for years were uprooted ... the steel power pole serving the sewerage pump station there had been bent level to ground level at its base plate ... wooden power poles were snapped off at the ground level ... and those trees left standing were virtually stripped of their foliage!

The Bribie Island Bowls Club lost part of its roof and suffered damage to its front awnings.

At BP South Pacific, the roof had totally disappeared from above Carmel Fry's shop and was lying partly up against the windows of the Cut Price Supermarket - having broken one of their display windows. Carmel's shop was totally flooded from the rain and the large, steel display column in the BP's driveway had bent at about a 30 degree angle! This column was made of rough, six inch steel and was guyed with steel wires!

The most seaward of Bribie's waterfront buildings, Plimsolls Restaurant, had taken the full brunt of the winds. The outside dining section was totally obliterated ... the roofing had disappeared and the wind had actually broken off part of a solid concrete column which must have weighed well over 200 lbs. and lifted it onto the roof of the restaurant!

Along The Esplanade, the roof of the "Bayvue" apartments was found some 300 metres away in the bush behind the Units. A tree, which must have been decades old, had been physically ripped up, leaving a hole large enough to swallow a family-sixed car. And all of this in just over four minutes of actual wind.

Having been comandeered by the Channel Nine News team (who were the first to arrive by helicopter) to drive them around to film the damage, they were absolutely astounded at how quick people had rallied around to help.

By 4.30 PM the Council teams had sprung into action, supported by virtually every contractor on the Island who had equipment that could be used in the "big clean-up".

Sgt. Chris Smith and the Bribie police were immaculate in their immediate call to action ... directing traffic ... assisting bewildered and shocked people to find their bearings again and begin the clean-up. At BP South Pacific, up to his arms in debris, Snr. Const. Terry Hickey was "mucking in" in clearing the road of pieces of roof from the BP service station ... Snr. Const. Peter Deasey came in off holidays to assist in the disaster ... as well as the Police from Caboolture who were here within minutes of the storm.

Possibly the best news to come out of the disaster was the fact that only one minor injury occurred. Brian Hughes of The Grange, Brisbane, received a minor cut to his forehead when two trees crushed his caravan in the Bongaree Caravan Park. The last I saw of Brian was him being bundled into a vehicle by Steve Eaton, Manager of the park ... two hours after the storm! Brian had continued to work in helping clean up before bothering to go for treatment!

The Bribie ambulancemen, with fortunately nothing to do in their area of expertise, were using their vehicles to assist the Police in road blocks and traffic direction.

The prompt and efficient action of Caboolture Shire and its workers was superb to see. Within half an hour of the storm hitting, Council workmen were hard at it ... chainsawing trees and loading them on trucks ... cleaning up the broken branches and rubbish that covered all of the foreshore and doing a myriad of other tasks to ensure that Bribie was as quickly back to normal as possible.

The whole population of Bribie owes all of our community services a massive "Thankyou" for the work that was done.

SEQEB workmen slaved through Monday night through to the early hours of Tuesday morning to restore power. For a group of men that this State was declaring "Open War" on last year, to see their dedication in unsnarling the absolute mess that the storm caused to our power grid deserves our strongest commendation.

Possibly the luckiest man on Bribie Island was Wally Polakow of Riverview, Ipswich. Wally was camped in a tent in the Caravan Park and, during the storm, was sheltering in his tent with his two young children. Two massive pine trees either side of his tent both snapped off at their bases. One tree, over 60 feet tall, fell diagonally across the top of the tent. Had it not been for this tree "hanging up" in another pine, it would have surely crushed all three in the tent. The other tree fell away from the tent after glancing off another tree!

When I questioned Wally as to the fact whether he had gone to church last Sunday, he said, "No, I didn't ... but you can bet your boots I will be there next Sunday!"

After two hours of running around the site of the damage, a feeling suddenly began to creep over me and the Channel Nine News team - a feeling of admiration for the people of Bribie Island from these hard-bitten newsmen ... and a feeling of immense pride from me, as I watched this wonderful community spring into action to help its fwllow man.

"Good on yer, Bribie" ... and today, it's a beautiful day on Bribie!


And it was a beautiful day on Bribie... Eyewitness Account by David Thomas.  Bribie Times v.2(3) Oct 10, 1986 pages 1-3.

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