Giant hail, heat, lightning! It’s all in a day’s travel!

Published: October 25, 2021
Storm chasing grey nomads

Summer isn’t quite here yet but many grey nomads have been enjoying some sizzling temperatures … and some spectacular lightning storms.

Parts of Queensland have recorded their hottest October day in more than 15 years, and the skies over the Sunshine State and elsewhere have also been lit up by dramatic electrical activity.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, over the past week, a tornado has hit Brisbane airport and giant hailstones have been wreaking havoc in various locations in the north and even down in to New South Wales.

Over the weekend, the temperature in Longreach hit 41 degrees. It also went over 40 degrees in Julia Creek, and the heat climbed above 36C at Tewantin, Cloncurry, Mount Isa, Lochington and Windorah. Brisbane recorded 33 degrees, at least five degrees above average.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the heatwave was the result of hot air in central Queensland being blown across by westerly winds. And it’s forecasting yet more severe storm activity in Queenland thos week.

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 – pre-Covid – spent spring and early summer looking for bad weather here, and the rest of the year in America doing the same.

They travelled 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,” Jane previously told the Grey Nomads. “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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