I was stuffing cameras into my daypack, readying for a trip up the road, when I heard it: a loud, sharp CRACK on the roof over the back verandah. Then another, and another. They started coming faster till we were under sustained attack, like a gang of vandals was hurling rocks from up the hill. But there is no hill to be up and the vandals around here are not that resourceful or organised.
This was two afternoons ago. The forecast had suggested a storm, but I’d been disappointed before. Now with the temperature easing off and the sky darkening, I thought I’d try my luck at some very low-budget storm-chasing. I love the summer storm season here in South-East Queensland: rain, cooler temps, some much-needed drama. And I keep hoping one day I’ll fluke a nice magazine cover-worthy lightning shot and retire to somewhere dark and stormy with my earnings.
I ditched the pack and peeked out from under the upstairs verandah. Leaving cover right then would have been suicidal. A few years ago I was way, way out on the mudflats at low tide as a summer storm moved in from the south. The thunder and lightning were thrilling, and the rain was very refreshing — even when the hail started. Those stones were barely pea-sized, but they hurt, and pretty soon I was bolting shoreward. I finally reached a picnic shelter and stood there, soaked, exhilarated and stinging all over, watching the show in relative comfort. Never got my lightning shot but it was a good show. I’d definitely watch the sequel.
This was the sequel:
For perhaps half an hour the barrage was merciless. For Sandgate, fortunately, it was limited mostly to hail; 50 other suburbs were hit far harder. Apparently it was the worst storm Brisbane has endured in a decade: cyclonic winds, flying roofs, power outages, flooding, floating cars, smashed windows and walls. No serious injuries, amazingly. And all with very little warning.
Then it was gone, cruising north, and I ventured out into the drizzle with my pack and my little umbrella. We’d gotten off lightly, though my parents (they’re cruising off the New Guinea coast at present!) will be sad to see what’s left of their agaves:
Some water lingered on our street but it looks like this even after a particularly high tide — the creek is very close:
No major damage, just a lot of foliage and flowers stripped from trees…
Further up the street, new lakes spread from the roadsides, and Gasworks Creek, normally a narrow, mangrovey tributary of Cabbage Tree Creek favoured by roosting ibises and flying foxes, was now a powerful chocolate-coloured torrent:
But that was it. I strolled through the sodden park, where the local slacker teens, bless’ em, were kicking puddle water at each other and running with their delighted dogs. I did a circuit up to the supermarket, stocked up on cheesecake in case End Times were coming, and went home to the TV and the endless photo editing.
But the mornings after storms can be just as enjoyable up at the waterfront, and the tides are out at dawn lately, which makes for wide-open vistas. I headed up yesterday at 4:00am, passing beneath two kookaburras where I’ve never seen them.
They sat there, one offering the other a morsel of something disgusting which he/she refused to accept — obviously a lover’s dispute — two honeyeaters moved in, the kookaburras burst into cackle, way too early, and a few straggling flying foxes headed home after a night of foraging:
Just another Sandgate morning. Across the railway tracks…
..and out to the mudflats, where I was completely alone with dawn still 20 minutes off:
There was a lot more debris than usual on the sand…
..and seaweed clumps in appealing crescent shapes dotted the rippled flats:
Just as this distant figure passed southward along the water’s edge…
..it started to rain, and once again I was out in the weather, a quarter-mile from shore.
I quickly wrapped my camera in a bandana, eyes stinging, as I bent into the shower and began trotting in — and then remembered I had a dry-sack in the pack (fortunately, as I was also carrying a laptop) as well as that tiny travel umbrella that cost me about $8 in Korea and has repaid its value dozens of times.
In my defence, it wasn’t much after 5:00 and I hadn’t had my coffee. Expensive disaster averted, I made it in to yet another picnic shelter to dry off, while a few hardy locals emerged…
..and the sun half-heartedly attempted the same…
..and when the rain fizzled out I had a closer look at the storm’s messy footprint along the walking path:
While I was walking along the esplanade…
..I glanced seawards, saw a small crowd forming around an old man lying on his side, and went over to help.
I thought we had a coronary on our hands but he’d just tripped over his (rather guilty-looking) dog and was worried about his hip replacement. We soon got him on his feet, they continued cautiously on their way, and I aimed at breakfast, pondering the transience of life, beauty…
..and our mortal frames, with their dubious and temperamental joints.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote