A Gympie resident with handfuls of hail

A Gympie resident with handfuls of hail
TALKS are under way to determine if the hard hit South Burnett region should be declared a disaster zone, with entire crops lost at harvest time, and roofs off homes.

The storms packing tornado-driven hail cut a swathe of devastation right across southern Queensland.

About 1000 Queenslanders have made insurance claims today, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

That figures is expected to skyrocket over the weekend, however, as residents begin to count the cost of the damage.

Kingaroy mum Fiona Simpson was dubbed Queensland's bravest mother, after shielding her baby from vicious hail during a freak supercell storm which hit the South Burnett region on Thursday.

She had been travelling home from Nanago to Kingaroy with her grandmother and daughter Clara when the storm struck, delivering blow after blow of massive hailstorms.

Fiona Simpson was left battered and bruised following a hail storm

Fiona Simpson was left battered and bruised following a hail storm yesterday afternoon.
SES volunteers are battling fallen and electrified trees to reach storm victims.

More than 360 calls for help are currently logged with the SES and that number is building as more people assess their damaged homes.

SES Director Brian Cox said his volunteers had encountered some wrenching scenes.

"People are so upset with losing their roofs and property being damaged it's a very emotional time for them," he said.

"We are asking people to be patient because we've actually got to navigate through the debris roads to get to some of these areas first

"We've had to use our chainsaw to get through .. and some of those have actually got power lines in them."

Mr Cox urged non-urgent travel in storm affect areas to be delayed.

"We're asking those that don't need to be on the roads and that don't need to be outside to stay indoors or stay away from the area so we just get that priority response through," he said.

The SES, currently hampered by the weather, will be busy through the weekend cleaning up the mess.

"As we're going in we're finding others that need help like the elderly. A lot of them a very stoic so when we go there we find they do need help, they don't necessarily call us," he said.

"It's timely reminder that we are going into storm season these events do happen. We strongly recommend people have a plan

"Another important thing is too look after those elderly or more vulnerable within your street and neighbourhood."

Additional SES form Brisbane and Redlands have been brought into the Gympie area.

The storm began shortly after midday yesterday, with tennis-ball-sized hail falling at Kumbia near Kingaroy, tearing off roofs and even knocking birds from the trees.

Nearly 100mm of rain fell in some parts of the southeast after 9am on Thursday.

Noosa Heads topped the rainfall count with 96mm, Eumundi 85mm and Tewantin 66mm.

As the weather bureau issued warning after warning, rain poured across Brisbane and the southeast and winds and hail did vast damage in a belt from Kingaroy to Gympie and on to Maryborough and south of Bundaberg.

The bureau used "tornado" to describe the winds.

Schoolchildren in Kumbia endured winds and 7cm hail that smashed buildings before teachers called parents to come and get them early.

The tornado hit Tansey, near Murgon, about 3.12pm. It and Murgon, Proston, Yelarbon and Gympie all copped a hail hammering.

By 4.20pm Maryborough, Hervey Bay and Tiaro were in the firing line, with the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issuing another alert for the "Very Dangerous Storm".

Greenfields resembled snowfields at Long Flat south of Gympie
© Lachie Millard
Greenfields resembled snowfields at Long Flat south of Gympie.
Hail covered paddocks so deep in ice, parts looked like they had a covering of snow.

Near Chinchilla some watermelon farmers are reporting their season is over after the destructive hail.

Grower Terry O'Leary said the storms were likely to affect fruit supplies at Christmas time.

"It's going to affect a fair bit of Christmas produce throughout this area," he told ABC Brisbane.

"They've been completely written off, the unfortunate side as well is that horticultural crops aren't insurable for hail in Australia as of yet, so this is a complete hit for our business, and we certainly aren't the only ones affected, it's pretty widespread."

Queensland Dairy Farmers president Brian Tessmann said the storm's fury at his Coolabunia farm was like nothing he'd ever seen, with winds tearing the roofs from his home and dairy.

" ... the roof came off and it was bedlam from there, trying to hold doors shut, and water coming through the ceiling, and things flying through the air. It was quite something," he told the ABC.

"I saw it leaving out the window."

At Long Flat near Gympie, Dave Richardson's farm was covered in hail and fog.

Despite the damage - he was clearing timber fallen on fences by 3.30pm - he was grateful for the water.

"I'll take it any way you give it to me, frozen or liquid," he said.

The SES last night had 250 call-outs, with 160 from Gympie, 50 in the South Burnett and 25 on the Fraser Coast.

Forecaster Adam Blazak said the storms had "produced... roughly tennis-ball-sized hail and destructive winds".

He said the bureau expected a gloomy, wet weekend.

"We'll expect to see shower activity increase over the weekend, and it could get a bit windy on the coast," he said.

State Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington said locals were shaken.

"The coming days are going to be tough for a lot of people in my community as they clean up," she said.

"We are a resilient bunch, but this will test us.

"A lot of farmers were getting ready to pick their crops... and this will be a massive setback."

The final tornado warning was cancelled at 5.30pm, but the weather bureau said the Wide Bay and Burnett and parts of the Central Highlands and Coalfields, Capricornia, Darling Downs, Granite Belt and South Coast districts were likely to see severe thunderstorms.