Wild weather hits … more to come! Are you ready?

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grey nomad chaining vans down ahead of cyclones
A man chains down his caravan ahead of a cyclone last year. PIC: ABC News / James Carmody

Wild weather has battered large parts of Australia over the past week, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The Bureau of Meteorology said ‘giant’ hail of up to 14 centimetres had fallen in parts of Brisbane, the largest ever seen nationwide.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said it had received more than 8,500 claims from south-east Queensland, with estimated insurance losses exceeding $110 million. The RACQ said it had been receiving about 100 damage claims an hour, the majority of them relating to vehicle damage.

Grey nomads are, of course, naturally vulnerable to these major weather events. When they are on the Big Lap, they have no garages to park their rigs in, or solid buildings to shelter, and they can get caught out while on the road.

Last Thursday, a couple in their 50s were travelling along the Pacific Highway 40 kilometres or so north of Kempsey in New South Wales when a big storm hit. The pair did the right thing in pulling into the Paddys Rest rest area to sit out the wild winds … but then a large tree branch fell on their car and nearby toilet block.  The couple needed to be helped from their crushed car by emergency services, but escaped injury. The rest area has been closed until further notice.

And last week, large numbers of caravans have been seriously damaged after what has been described as a ‘mini tornado’ swept through a caravan park in Singleton, New South Wales

For grey nomads though, the worst thing is that we probably ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the current La Nina weather pattern is likely to bring more torrential rain to eastern and northern Australia.

Bureau climatologist Greg Browning said cyclones could develop in the north at any time throughout the tropical cyclone season, which runs from November to April.

“With La Nina this year we are expecting to see slightly more tropical cyclones than average and the first one may arrive earlier than normal,” he said. “Communities right across northern Australia need to be prepared  now and stay informed … right though until April.”

So, what can grey nomads do when they are potentially going to be caught out in major weather event such as a cyclone. The Northern Territory Government says travellers much must protect their caravans in high winds to protect it from flying debris or being blown over, but warns it will not be possible to totally protect a caravan against a severe storm or cyclone.

It says some caravan park operators will require travellers to take their caravans and leave on notice of a cyclone warning and people should aim to leave earlier rather than later.

The NT Government says:

To protect your caravan from a severe storm or cyclone, you should:

  • park with the narrow end facing the wind
  • park out of the way of trees that might fall
  • tie down your caravan securely
  • apply the brake
  • chock the wheels.

Even if your caravan is securely tied down, you should seek other shelter when warned of approaching high winds. In some areas, flooding can happen with storms. You should be mindful of this when parking your caravan.

When a high-wind or tropical cyclone warning is issued you should:

  • tie down the chassis of the caravan to stop it being blown off its supports
  • tie down the roof to stop the caravan from overturning or swaying off its chassis
  • put your equipment inside the caravan, including your:
    • annexe
    • bikes
    • chairs
    • household items.

Caravan parks in high-wind areas usually provide ground anchor points. If there is an anchor point, you should tie down your chassis with either:

  • short lengths of strong chain and turnbuckles
  • or sound rope of at least 9.5mm diameter.

If there are no anchor points, you should use nylon rope or steel cable anchored at ground level and attached to the caravan chassis.

  • Before you tie down, ensure the caravan supports are sound and stable.
  • The most effective roof tie-down is a strong net firmly fixed at ground level and passing over the caravan for the full length of the van.
  • Put all of your things inside the caravan. Any heavy or bulky items that don’t fit should be laid on their side, tied together with strong rope, and lashed to an anchor point.

* Have you ever been caught in a cyclone or tropical storm? How did you cope? Comment below.
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One Response to Wild weather hits … more to come! Are you ready?

  1. When we lived in Karratha in the ‘70s we were told to tie the entire van down with cables over the top of the van. The idea was that, if you only tied the chassis down the top of the van was so flimsy it would be blown away in a cyclone, leaving just the chassis!

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