'Super cell' almost claimed life

Colina Hunt recalls how her car was swept off the Harpers Creek Bridge at Conondale. Photo:Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily
Colina Hunt recalls how her car was swept off the Harpers Creek Bridge at Conondale. Photo:Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily Warren Lynam

COLINA Hunt drove into a perfect storm that almost claimed her life on Sunday evening.

In the hour before the 32-year-old made the final turn to home after a day out with her sister, a "super cell" weather system had been hovering over the Blackall Ranges.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Peter Otto said 70mm of rain was recorded at the Harpers Creek rain gauge between 6-7pm.

When Ms Hunt turned into Harpers Creek Rd, Conondale, she was hit by a flash flood she could not have predicted.

The nature of the weather system meant its impact was variable.

At Maleny, only 17mm fell for the 24 hours to 9am yesterday, but at Obi Lookout there had been 87mm recorded and at Mapleton, 105mm.

The 24-hour figure of 142mm for the Nambour DPI gauge appeared so anomalous that council officers checked its accuracy with the bureau.

The number was right. Tellingly, 108mm of the amount fell in only an hour between 8-9pm on Sunday. Across town, another gauge recorded only 71mm for the 24 hours to yesterday morning.

Kenilworth Garage proprietor Mark Gilroy said the rise in Obi Obi Creek and the Mary River was the swiftest he had witnessed in 54 years in the district.

It normally takes 12 hours for heavy rain at Maleny to cause the upper Mary to rise.

"We must have had a lot of rain locally somewhere," Mr Gilroy said.

Mr Otto said Super Cells formed in specific clusters and were effectively storms with rotation within them that pulled in new air, allowing them to gain strength.

They form where an upper level trough creates instability. The intensity of Sunday night's cloudburst was further encouraged by high humidity.

The systems are quite organised in their structure and slow moving. Some will drop hail or cause extreme wind conditions.

Unfortunately for Colina Hunt as she made her way home, ahead of her water was falling in a torrent into the creek that gives her home address its name off Aherns Rd, Conondale.

A similar, less intense, system hovered over the Gold Coast yesterday afternoon.

Storms carrying moderate to heavy rain also moved in over Kenilworth and Conondale as Ms Hunt recovered from her close shave with nature's whim.

Topics:  storm alert weather

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