Resilient communities slowly rebuilding after catastrophic hailstorm
The devastating Halloween Hail event which created widespread damage across pockets of South East Queensland has left a community evacuated and facing rebuilding their homes.
On the 31st of October, residents of Springfield Lakes and Greenbank were struck by a devastating hailstorm. Power was cut to thousands of homes, while golf-sized hail whipped through roofs and cars.
With widespread damages affecting homes and businesses in the small pocket south west of Brisbane, entire streets have since been evacuated as peoples’ properties lie in ruin from severe hail damage.
“It was a perfect day,” said local Greenbank resident Jennifer. “Beautiful blue skies. I was at work that day in the bay area, but you could see it starting to build up from around 10am.”
Having moved into their new home only 12 months ago, Suncorp customers Jennifer and her husband Barry had relocated to Greenbank after finding a suitable property with acreage to accommodate their two horses.
“I’d been checking my phone all morning for an update on the storm and I’d never seen it like it. It was black and orange,” Jennifer said of looking on the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) app. “I’d never seen it like that before. I rang my husband and said I wasn’t coming home until it had passed – I didn’t want to come off the road.”
With Jennifer at work, and Barry waiting for updates of the hailstorm to come in, she felt helpless. “Four storms rolled over while I was at work. I couldn’t do anything,” she said.
While the couple and surrounding community knew the storm was coming, nothing could prepare them for the ferocity and speed at which it broke.
“It just came down. The hail stones were humongous, the size of cricket balls” she recalled. “All hell broke loose. The roof suddenly had huge holes in it, water was pouring in everywhere. There are just no words to describe it. I’ve never been through anything like this before.”
With the ferocity at which the hailstorm came in, all that residents of Greenbank and Springfield Lakes could do was take shelter and wait for it to pass.
“The horses were terrified and began running around the paddock, and Barry was worried they were going to get hurt, but the size of the stones coming down meant he couldn’t go out to them. He waited in our shed for it to pass. And then it was all over within 10 minutes. When the hail stopped my husband went outside to inspect the damage – to see if the house was okay – and the roof in the kitchen had completely caved in.”
Considering the damage to their home the Wright’s decided to sleep that night in their caravan parked in the commercial shed on their property. It wasn’t until morning, however, that they were confronted with the extent of the damage. Their roof had completely caved in, leaving the house in ruin – and totally exposed to the elements.
The next morning, we walked back to the house and we couldn’t get in. We couldn’t even open the front door. There were air conditioning tubes from our ducted system just hanging everywhere, electrical wires, and wet roofing insulation - which was obviously too heavy from the melted hailstones - had collapsed the roof in and slushed up the walls.Jennifer Wright, Suncorp Insurance customer
It was a mess. And then we had the second storm yesterday – that really finished us off.
Taking stock of the extensive damage to Jennifer’s property and the surrounding suburbs, Grant Beck, Event Assessing Advisor for Suncorp Insurance was taken aback by the sheer destruction of the hailstorm.
Walking in here on the Sunday after the Halloween event the only way to describe it was a disaster zone, lots of damage. In my time as an assessor, it’s the worst widespread damage that I’ve seen – especially in such a defined local area.Grant Beck, Suncorp Insurance Event Assessing Advisor
Supporting Grant in assessing Jennifer and Barry’s property, Sam Brown, from Australian Building & Construction (ABC), was equally shocked at the damage.
“We’ve driven extensively around the area and the damage has been significant,” said Sam. “I’ve seen events like this before in the northern regions of Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, out west at Chinchilla and in the Darling Downs area, but the thing for this event is that this area is majority tile roofing; there’s a lot of ingress into the house which makes it more problematic and makes it more high risk.”
As Jennifer and Barry start the process of rebuilding their home, she believes they could be far worse off.
“We’ve never had to claim anything before. But we know the security’s there. We knew we’d ring Suncorp and they’d tell us what to do.”
“We’re lucky in a way, we have the caravan. Somewhere else to live. Other people don’t have that. I understand now what it feels like to have your home destroyed. But it is replaceable, and no one’s hurt. That’s the main thing.”