Big Lap hobby leads to a perfect storm

From searing heat and spectacular electrical storms to torrential downpours and tropical cyclones, the weather brings an unpredictable and uncontrollable element to the grey nomad adventure.

And, judging from the latest batch of meteorological research, it seems caravanners and motorhomers had better strap themselves in for some turbulent times ahead.

A study from a team of international researchers concludes that extreme La Niña events will almost double in frequency as the climate warms. In Australia, that’s most likely to mean more heavy rain and associated flooding. And the CSIRO has also just predicted that any tropical cyclones that do form in Australia are likely to be significantly more intense than they have been previously.

Grey nomads who have suffered from the impacts of flooding, bushfires or high winds while on the road will need no reminding of what a devastating impact the weather can have on the Big Lap experience.

Most travellers, of course, plan their itinerary carefully to maximise their exposure to the perfect sunny days that Australia is famed for, and to minimise the likelihood of running into extreme weather events. Some though choose to test their luck by travelling out of season in a bid to avoid the crowds, while a brave few actively seek out the worst that Mother Nature can throw at them.

Jane O’Neill and Clyve Herbert are proud to call themselves ‘stormchasing nomads’, and spend spring and early summer looking for bad weather here, and the rest of the year in America doing the same.

They travel in a 2-berth 2002 Ford Transit campervan because it might just be manoeuvrable  enough to get them out of trouble if they ever get too close to a nasty storm.

“We’ve seen some memorable events in our travels in Australia … half a dozen tornadoes, flooding, dangerous lightning, golf ball- and orange-sized hail, hurricane force winds,” said Jayne.  “We do have many hail dents on the car in the USA, but we try and keep our Australian motorhome out of the hail core of any severe storms we encounter.”

Both Clyve and Jane are weather experts and are anxious to emphasise that storm chasing is not be a good hobby for most grey nomads.

“Storm chasing can be a fascinating pastime,” said Jane. “But it is one where you really do need to know what you are dealing with, and to understand the behaviour of storms.”

Racing to be in the right place at the right time for the next front moving through the eastern states, or for a low pressure trough stalling over inland New South Wales or Queensland means the couple can rack up tens of thousands of kilometres in double quick time.

“We spend quite a bit of our time zigzagging backwards and forwards, up and down, and across,” said Jane. “But we love our lives on the road and have chased some spectacular storms in the process!”


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