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Severe Hybrid Tropical Storm SE Queensland, March 2004

E-mail descriptions and eye-witness reports
BoM Preliminary Report


On the morning of 2nd March 2004, Jeff Callaghan of BoM Brisbane alerted us to an unusual development in the Coral Sea.  The storm that grew out of it over the next few days was tropical in nature, had gale-force winds, but never quite managed to form into a tropical cyclone and earn a name.  By 6th March over 100,000 people were without electrical power, trees had been flattened across SE Queensland, there were many reports of flooding, and a great deal of disruption to normal everyday life. This page should be viewed at 1024 x 768 or higher resolution to avoid strange formatting of the graphics.  Satellite pictures (satpics) on this page are copyright Bureau of Meteorology.  Annotations and colourised satpics are copyright Carl Smith. Satpics should appear to the right of the subject line of the e-mail referring to them.   Timestamps in Satpic filenames all refer to UTC.  E-mail times on this page are in the American date format (Month/Day/Year) and are all in Hong Kong Time (UTC+8).


The following snippets from e-mails written by a mixture of experts and amateurs give a blow-by-blow description of the life of this unusual storm. Actual e-mail addresses have been edited out as have many comments on other simultaneous storms and the many pages of HTML code that was being sent back and forth as some of us tried to keep up with maintaining coverage of this storm on our web-pages.  Material deleted within the body of an e-mail is denoted by [snip].

Date:  03/02/2004 09:04 Subject:  unusual Coral sea development
For those who like unusual events watch the Coral Sea for the rest of the week as most models now intensify a tropical low and move it towards the Qld coast and beneath a 500hPa low near the Tropic of Capricorn.
In the EC +48h for 12Z 3 Mar 2004  there is  extremely strong warm air advection on the poleward side e.g. the grid near 17.5S 155.0E has SE/60knots at 850hPa, E at 50 knots at 700hPa and NE 55 knots at 500hPa. This is followed by rapid deepening as the models move it towards the Qld coast. These cyclones usually have a sheared appearance on Satellite imagery but can reach hurricane force. Examples are Kelvin in Feb 1991 which hit Willis Island and the unwarned Tropical cyclone which struck the Sunshine coast New Years day 1963.

From: Simon Clarke To: TCDG
Date: 03/02/2004 15:49 Subject: Re: unusual Coral sea development
I sent a message to the Group a few days ago regarding Cyclones south of  about Lat 25 and said that they tend to shear away rapidly upon reaching this point.... This particular storm appears in you description to fit the mould....
I'll be watching carefully....

From: Carl Smith  To: Phil Smith 
Date: 03/02/2004 23:19 Subject: current.htm - Qld system added
Hi Phil.
[snip] added Qld system, etc.. Will have to consider what radar links to add [snip] for the new one developing in the Coral Sea and headed for here.
ABC TV News weather report tonight told us to expect "gale to storm force winds" for SE Qld coastal districts on Friday.

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/03/2004 13:56 Subject: Coral Sea satpic CoralSea200403030130annoted.jpg (46633 bytes)
Hi All.
As shown in the BoM IR satpic below, the Coral Sea low has developed two LLCC's, with the stronger one being ENE of Cairns and a weaker one NNE of Brisbane - it will be interesting to see how these two develop and perhaps interact.
I approximated the LLCC positions with crosses as given in the BoM High Seas Gale Warning issued at 01:49Z:
A complex area of low pressure with two centres one low 1000 hPa located near 14S151E at 030000Z and another low 1002 hPa located near 18S159E are expected to deepen and move slowly south over the next 24 hours. A large 1030 hPa high is located over the Tasman Sea and is moving slowly east.

The 2nd LLCC could be a little S or SW or W of the cross, however it is hard to tell on the satpic.

From: Carl Smith To: "Phil Smith" 
Date: 03/03/2004 22:44 Subject: Re: current.htm - Coral Sea Low - many new links
Been blowing a gale here for most of the day.
BoM seems to be holding off on specific public warnings for Coral Sea system(s) - I guess the elusive multiple LLCC's are playing cat-and-mouse and they are not quite sure when and where it will all spin up - according to BoM on ABC radio late this arvo, there were at least 3 LLCC's and possibly more, and the models all agree that SE Qld is still going to get clobbered Friday, but they do not agree what path, with some showing a LLCC hitting Fraser Is and travelling inland to Darling Downs and others showing a LLCC approaching Fraser Is then turning S and hugging the coast - either scenario means gale to storm force winds here Friday, the first one meaning flood rains as well.

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/04/2004 00:24 Subject: Coral Sea satpic CoralSea200403031130.jpg (49745 bytes)
Hi All.
The mess in the Coral Sea must be keeping the Brisbane BoM busy - see satpic below.


From: Roger Edson To: TCDG
Date: 03/04/2004 02:47 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic
This looks like our reverse-oriented monsoon trough that we often get in the NWPAC. With this, you can get several small TCs popping within the (and going down) the trough....and then possibly one larger one to clear everything out. Hey about it Mark L?

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/04/2004 09:58 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-03 21:30 utc CoralSea200403032130annoted.jpg (47581 bytes)
Hi All.
According to the BoM, a tropical low is going to develop out of the mess in the satpic below and head for SE Qld.
One is left to speculate as to why the BoM is issuing Severe Weather Warnings rather than Tropical Cyclone Advices for an apparently tropical system with winds forecast to have gusts of 120 km/hr near the centre as per their SWW - will this be another 'duck'?

From: "Phil Smith" To: "Carl Smith" 
Date: 03/04/2004 10:18 Subject: Re: current.htm updated
Hi Carl,
[snip]Also added Monterey and FNMOC lines to QLD Low.
Do you reckon JTWC are ever going to notice the Coral Sea low? They are still lingering on no disturbances for the Pacific.
How's the wind and weather?

From: Roger Edson To: TCDG
Date: 03/04/2004 10:32 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-03 21:30 utc
I think this is a difficult area to forecast and to specifically 'pinpoint' a location to watch out for...
To me, an area-wide gale and/or storm area at this time is the best way to describe the area. Once (if) the region consolidates into a unique area that can be identified, then (it seems to me) that a TC warning would become appropriate.
Otherwise, you will end up chasing either 'false centers' or missing fast moving ones that move down the trough axis. And, you still will not be adequately representing the destructive wind area.

From: Simon Clarke To: TCDG:
Date: 03/04/2004 11:32 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-03 21:30 utc
The latest sat pictures clearly show the cloud line moving steadily toward the coast.
It looks as though it will wrap up into a sub-tropical storm.... (ie - gales may not be present in the northern quads and may be displaced away to the south east of the centre). This initial sub-tropical storm may then develop some semblance of full tropical characteristics if the wrap is quick and strong enough. The new low is forecast to be 990 hpa by tomorrow..... with gales averaging between 40 and 50 knots between 1770 and Cape Moreton ..... so I think Sub-Tropical Cyclone Grace would be a nice name for this one (or Sub-Tropical Storm Grace)..... For all
intents, it will seem like a cyclone on the southern side ....

From: "Mark A. Lander" To: TCDG
Date: 03/04/2004 12:04 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-03 21:30 utc
Hi Simon,
This one will indeed be an interesting cyclone to follow. Two numerical models that I looked at are slightly different on the track. The U.S. Navy model (NOGAPS) wraps the system up nicely and brings it inland in SE Australia. The U.S. National Met Center (NCEP) model (GFS) wraps it up very tightly, but keeps it just off-shore on its southward run.
Nice forecast challenge. Hope all are braced for the wind, waves and heavy rain.
A warm dry "winter" day here on Guam,
Mark Lander

From: Carl Smith To: "Phil Smith" 
Date: 03/04/2004 12:25 Subject: Re: current.htm updated - Qld changes
Hi Phil.
Forecast 130 km/hr here tomorrow.
Qld changes:
BoM Qld: 1:45 pm AEST [UTC + 10h]: Severe Weather Warning: Town of 1770 to Coolangatta
BoM NSW: 2:35 pm AEDT [UTC + 11h]: Severe Weather Warning: Qld. border to Coffs Harbour

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/04/2004 15:27 Subject: Coral Sea Satpic 2004-03-04 03:30 utc CoralSea200403040330annoted.jpg (61275 bytes)
Hi All.
The Coral Sea mess is fast getting organised, and the scenario forecast by the BoM certainly does appear to be unfolding.
The composite BoM satpic below has the Vis image LHS, IR centre, and coloured IR RHS.
I have also marked the area of coast under Severe Weather Warnings by BoM Qld & NSW in red on the Vis image - the area in Qld stretches from the Town of 1770 and the tip of Fraser Island in the N to Coolangatta on the border, and in NSW from the border S to Coffs Harbour.
According to BoM on ABC radio Brisbane a few minutes ago, the most destructive winds will probably reach the tip of Fraser Island in the early hours of Friday and progress S to the Sunshine Coast during the early morning, and continue beyond Brisbane during the day reaching the Gold Coast during the afternoon, contracting S into NSW during Saturday morning.

From: Simon Clarke To: TCDG:, ;
Date: 03/04/2004 16:44 Subject: Re: Coral Sea Satpic 2004-03-04 03:30 utc
Carl and others....
From those pictures, you can just about see the new low starting to take shape (lighter and strong pink tones).... with a definite southern and eastern side bias .. a SW track will bring the worst of this weather through the Hervey Bay area of QLD first and then southwards ....
There is a remarkable amount of tropical energy being wrapped southwards by the new low ... ... hence the potential for rather severe weather conditions on the southern side of the system...
Already getting grey and grizzly here in Bayside Brisbane ! Squally showers now coming through with more regularity ...

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/04/2004 19:12 Subject: Coral Sea 2004-03-04 06:30 CoralSea200403040630.jpg (52059 bytes)
Hi All.
The Coral Sea system is continuing to organise. You can see that the wrapping mentioned by Simon has continued, and the cloud is starting to move on to the coast.
The weather here on the Gold Coast is alternating between calm and squally showers with near gale force winds.





From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/04/2004 22:11 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-04 11:30 utc CoralSea200403041130annoted.jpg (55642 bytes)
Hi All.
The Coral Sea situation is unfolding - a BoM senior forecaster on ABC radio Brisbane said at ~10:05 pm AEST [UTC+10h] that a low has developed about 800 km E of Mackay, and it is expected to quickly deepen and move rapidly SW to be a little NE of Fraser Island about noon AEST.
Another BoM update via ABC radio at ~11:05 pm AEST said much the same as above, and that the low is about 700 km NE of Fraser Island and is expected to move SW at about 40-50 km/hr.
It is remarkably calm here on the Gold Coast at the moment, with just light breezes.
Latest BoM Severe Weather Warnings pasted below the satpic.


From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/05/2004 00:38 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-04 15:30, paraphrased description by Jeff Callaghan BoM CoralSea200403041530.jpg (54775 bytes)
Hi All.
I just heard group member Jeff Callaghan of BoM Brisbane on ABC radio giving one of his simple yet clear descriptions of the Coral Sea low as a hybrid system with tropical characteristics coupled to an upper system of more mid-latitude characteristics. He said SST's of around 28C are fueling it, whilst it is being steered by an upper low centred overland near Charleville Qld, giving it a fairly predictable path towards the Fraser Island area. He also said AWS info coming in from Fredericks reef in the Swain group was giving them good information as to whats happening out there, where thunderstorm activity has increased. He also said gales exend all the way out to New Caledonia.
Keep up the good work Jeff - your clarity is much appreciated.
BoM IR satpic + colourised version below - you can see how the thunderstorm activity [magenta] has increased significantly in the last few hours as the low develops.

From: Carl Smith To: "Phil Smith"
Date: 03/05/2004 07:27 Subject: RE: current.htm updated
Hi Phil
>Hi Carl,
>I see winds at Gold Coast Seaway this morning are blowing at 92 km/h.
>Hang on tight when the worst approaches you later today!
Yes, it is windy here at times - Sheila has gone out to stock up on a few things
As it has slowed it's forward motion, it may become a TC before landfall The TC Warning signal is sounding with every warning on the radio now, so the BoM has decided it is better to play safe, which they were not doing till this morning.
BTW, did you happen to save a copy of the 5am warning? I slept through that one! I have all the others, as Gary will probably want them when he writes this up.

From: "Phil Smith" To: Carl
Date: 03/05/2004 09:13 Subject: current.htm QLD + NSW SWWs updated
Hi Carl,
[snip]BoM Qld: 10:50 5/3 AEST [UTC + 10h]: Severe Weather Warning: Rundle Is to Coolangatta and 120 km Inland.
BoM NSW: 12:00 5/3 AEDT [UTC + 11h]: Severe Weather Warning: Qld. border to Wooli.

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/05/2004 09:52 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-04 22:30 utc CoralSea200403042230annoted.jpg (54419 bytes)
Hi All.
The hybrid system in the Coral Sea has developed a quite tropical looking centre as it strengthens - see satpic below.
The BoM Qld has a Severe Weather Warning for the coast between Rundle Island near Gladstone to Coolangatta on the border extending 120 km inland, and NSW BoM has a severe weather warning from the border to Wooli, as marked on the satpic.
In case some of the newer members are wondering, I am on the Gold Coast about 14 km NE of Coolangatta, Simon is in the E suburbs of Brisbane, Michael Bath is a little SW of Coolangatta near Lismore in NE NSW, and Jeff Callaghan is at the BoM Brisbane, not sure where he resides.
Latest Severe Weather Warnings pasted below the satpic.

From: Simon Clarke To: TCDG:, ;
Date: 03/05/2004 10:14 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-04 22:30 utc
Carl and others ...
I am surprised at the size of this system.... I was expecting is to become more compact and that may happen in you next pictures as the clouds wrap in around the low.... Rain is comining down now and the radar shows it moving over in spiral shaped bands.... winds are just starting to get up there (I'd say 25 - 33 knts) at the moment......
I suspect in days gone by (and before Sat pics etc...) that this would have been considered a tropical cyclone ....
My biggest concern is for a significant flood event .... we have had quite a wet summer here this year, for a change !!!!!!!!

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/05/2004 12:28 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 00:30 utc CoralSea200403050030annoted.jpg (58290 bytes)
Hi All.
The Coral Sea system continues to show increasing organisation in the satpic - the main locations mentioned in the SWW's I sent earlier have been added.
Conditions here on the Gold Coast are alternating between relative calm and squally showers with gale force winds - the strength of the winds a the frequency of the squalls has increased quite a bit over the last few hours.

From: "Phil Smith" To: Carl
Date: 03/05/2004 12:36 Subject: current.htm - QLD SWW updated to 13:47
Hi Carl,
[snip]BoM Qld: 13:47 5/3 AEST [UTC + 10h]: Severe Weather Warning: Rundle Is to Coolangatta and 120 km Inland.

From: "Phil Smith" To: Carl
Date: 03/05/2004 15:16 Subject: current.htm - QLD & NSW SWW updates
Hi Carl,
[snip]BoM Qld: 16:50 5/3 AEST [UTC + 10h]: Severe Weather Warning: Within area from Double Island Point to Kingaroy to Stanthorpe to Coolangatta.
BoM NSW: 18:10 5/3 AEDT [UTC + 11h]: Severe Weather Warning: Northern Rivers, the Northern Tablelands and the Mid North Coast north of Smoky Cape.
You've been quiet for a while ... lost power or taking a rest?

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/05/2004 15:31 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 03:30 utc CoralSea200403050330.jpg (64114 bytes)
Hi All.
The Vis-IR-IRcol composite from BoM satpics below shows what appears to be an elongated LLCC just off the tip of Fraser Island extending NE.
ABC News reports say over 20,000 homes are without power in the Greater Brisbane area, the Sunshine Coast, and the Gold Coast. There are reports of trees down, about 40 homes have suffered roof damage on the Gold Coast.
Here on the Gold Coast, it is raining continuously, the park adjacent to us is flooded, and the winds have been near gale force with stronger squalls thrashing the trees about for the last few hours - I should mention that we are exposed on a rise here, so it is probably not as wild in flatter areas.
Latest SWW's pasted below.

From: Simon Clarke To: TCDG
Date: 03/05/2004 16:23 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 03:30 utc
Carl and others
To confirm.... a quick trip to Cleveland Point this afternoon revealed quite a lot of tree damage (much more than I expected) with several areas carpeted with leaf litter.............the rain is continuous and in torrents.
I have 85mm in the last three hours although this is suspect due to the wind and vegetation nearby....
I think flooding is a real threat now... another ten to twelve hours ahead of us .....

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/05/2004 18:47 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 06:30 utc CoralSea200403050630annoted.jpg (63978 bytes)
Hi All.
Wild weather continues here on the Gold Coast - the rain is bucketing down and the wind is blowing gale force much of the time, with the stronger gusts thrashing the trees about in our somewhat exposed location. Just before dark, the park adjoining our place was looking more like a lake, with more water there than I have seen since living here.
ABC News says that whilst crews are working hard to restore power, 22000 homes are still blacked out in SE Qld, and more are expected to lose power over the next few hours on the Gold Coast as the strongest winds contract south - our lights here have flickered many times this evening, however the last hour has seen it happen far more frequently than before.
The Vis-IR-IRcol satpic has the changed Qld warning places (and the old NSW ones) on it.
Latest BoM Qld SWW pasted below that.

From: "David Roth" To: TCDG
Date: 03/05/2004 21:25 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 06:30 utc
Now that's looking more like a subtropical storm...though without obs it's hard to tell if that "tail" extending N and NW of the center is a front or merely a surface trough. =)
If what I've seen in the ST candidates in the Northern Hemisphere works out similarly down south, then your peak months for these systems should be March and it's right on schedule.

From: Roger Edson To: TCDG
Date: 03/05/2004 21:31 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 06:30 utc
I really tried to get JTWC to start a 'suspect area' over this area--for research, anyway. But, they started one (I think it was 95P) then dropped it--with the change of shift. I wanted to record the MI images for this kind of 'subtropical-type' system. It seemed to have a good sig a 37Ghs but definitely NOT a good (circular) 85h signature (as one would expect for a bonafide TC).

From: "Gary Padgett" To: TCDG
Date: 03/05/2004 22:03 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-04 22:30 utc
Simon wrote:
>I suspect in days gone by (and before Sat pics etc...) that this would have been considered a tropical cyclone ....
I quite agree. This has been a feeling of mine for many years. While satellite coverage has in the main caused the apparent total number of TCs to increase by spotting them in data-poor sections of the oceans, the attempt to estimate TC intensity from satellite imagery, first from some of the pre-Dvorak methods and then from Dvorak, has led to a focusing in on systems with well-
organized central convection like the "classic" deep-tropics brand of TC and to the exclusion of systems like subtropical cyclones (STCs) and monsoon depressions (MDs).
I have little doubt that in pre-satellite days many STCs and MDs were treated as tropical cyclones and named if and when winds exceeded gale-force.

From: Carl Smith To: Phil Smith 
Date: 03/05/2004 22:12 Subject: current.htm updated - details below
Hi Phil.
[snip]BoM Qld: 23:08 5/3 AEST [UTC + 10h]:Severe Weather Warning: Caloundra to Kingaroy to Stanthorpe to Coolangatta.
BoM NSW: 23:55 5/3 AEDT [UTC + 11h]: Severe Weather Warning: Qld. border to Seal rocks incl Northern Tablelands.
Also removed NSW Coast Wind 2 link, but guess it will be reinstated tomorrow sometime.

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/05/2004 22:26 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 09:30 utc CoralSea200403050930.jpg (53426 bytes)
Hi All.
It's still bucketing down on the Gold Coast, although we had a 20 min period without rain from about 10pm AEST [UTC+10h] after about 6 hours continuous heavy rain, which gave me a chance to get outside. The wind was alternating between a stiff breeze for a few minutes, then suddenly gusting through and thrashing the trees about for many minutes. There are leaves and small branches strewn around the place, but I will have to wait until daylight to have a better look.
I think the strongest winds have probably moved through now, although it's still blowing a gale outside and some of the squalls are quite fierce. Like Simon, I expect there will be a some flooding coming from this event given the sustained heavy rains - one consolation is that the Hinze Dam, which is the water supply for the Gold Coast, will get enough water from this event for our water restrictions to be lifted!
Satpic and latest BoM SWW's below.

From: Simon Clarke To: [TCDG]
Date: 03/05/2004 22:45 Subject: OK enough !
Well it's about quarter to one in the morning .... I thought the worst was gone several hours ago....
But I must admit the gale is stronger than ever ........ there is going to be quite a lot of damage especially along the coast line.
There are large gum trees in my neighbourhood and they are really being blown to bits at the moment. Can't see if any have fallen but I don't really want that to happen. We had a very severe thunderstorm about four weeks ago that felled and split many trees. This is worse as it is lasting longer and the winds would be about 40 - 50 knots - average now ... and I am in a reasonably sheltered spot about 1 km from Moreton Bay.
That might not seem like much to you hardened cyclone chasers ... but believe me when it is right over your house it probably seems much much worse ...
It has just gone calm ... so may that is it ... I have had enough !
(PS - surprised the power is still on!)

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG
Date: 03/06/2004 00:22 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-04 22:30 utc
The experiential aspect on the ground of this one is very similar to a Cat 1 or weak Cat 2 (Aust) tropical cyclone except for the very long duration of the severe weather - if one was stuck in the middle of nowhere without outside contact, getting clobbered by a very large cyclone would be a natural conclusion to draw from the conditions.
One good point about the BoM warnings via the media is that throughout Friday they have been using the emergency signal that until recently was reserved for tropical cyclones, and I think this
was a good decision, as prior to the signal being sounded with the warnings some in the commercial media were not taking the threat of this system very seriously at all, which could have lulled many who may not understand what "wind gusts to 130 km/hr" really means into a false sense of complacency.

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/06/2004 00:49 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 15:30 utc CoralSea200403051530annoted.jpg (53639 bytes)
Hi All.
According to BoM on ABC radio in the last few minutes, the low causing all the gales has more or less been stalled for several hours now NW of Gympie (diamond on satpic is Gympie) and is expected to drift slowly S, extending the period of severe weather being experienced here into Saturday morning - it is still blowing a gale.
They are also concerned because tide instruments are showing that the tide is about 0.4 metres above normal, so the high tide after sunrise combined with the easterly gales could cause innundation in low lying areas, which may cause some problems for some.

From: Simon Clarke To: TCDG
Date: 03/06/2004 04:33 Subject: Re: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-05 15:30 utc
The high tide at Cleveland Point appears to have gone over the car park area - waves mainly ... but the weather conditions eased significantly here during the early hours.... I must say I have not seen a gale quite as strong as that here where I have lived for many years ..... I'd say a minimal Cat 2 cyclone strength.
I had expected to see more damage around the place...... I didn't see any structural damage .. but quite a few tree limbs have fallen as you would expect....

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/06/2004 09:55 Subject: Coral Sea satpic 2004-03-06 00:30 utc CoralSea200403060030.jpg (54388 bytes)
Hi All.
Conditions here have settled right down and the Severe Weather Warning for SE Qld has been cancelled.
Below is the last of this series of images.

From: Dale Small To: aussie-weather
Date: 03/06/2004 16:42 Subject: Re: aus-wx: Brisbane wx
After 27 and a half hours without mains power, all i can say is "thank god" im back on the grid again.
Lots of damage around the Park Ridge to Beaudesert district, some BIG trees down, many big branches down, some closing off the only route south last night (highway 13, Mt Lindsay) as far as im lead to believe, Cunninghams Gap
was still closed off earlier thisafternoon.
Rainfall was just absurd last night, I left the car down the front and waded through waist deep water @ midnight with no power to get back up to the house.. it has receeded enough to drive right up what is left of the driveway. (And what is left of our trees)
There is a lot of cleaning up to do after this one!

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/06/2004 23:32 Subject: False - cyclone overland CoralSea200403061130.jpg (52531 bytes)
Hi All.
Simon emailed me suggesting I get the latest satpic and send it to the group as it: "Looks like a false - cyclone overland", so it's below.
Certainly is an odd pic for this part of the world!

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG: ;
Date: 03/06/2004 23:39 Subject: SE Qld recovering from storm battering.
Hi All.
Damage here from the battering amounts to leaves and branches up to 1cm strewn around the place, a neighbour had two plants on pedastels blown over and smashed, went for a walk and there were some branches up to 2 inches snapped off - all considered we fared pretty well.
Many were not so fortunate - ABC news said there was one death of a 10 year old who was washed away while trying to walk across a flooded causeway in NE NSW, and many others were rescued from vehicles washed away trying to cross flooded causeways. There was some roof and water damage on the Gold Coast, mainly to houses already damaged from the intense hailstorm a couple of months ago and some from trees falling on houses, and some water damage from rising floodwaters entering homes. Around SE Qld, many trees are down including some blocking roads, there are widespread power failures with crews working hard to restore power, having reduced the number of homes without power from 105,000 early Sat morning to about 25,000 by evening.

From : Matthew Saxby To : TCDG
Sent : Saturday, March 6, 2004 11:50 PM Subject : Qld-NSW Subtrop turns killer
Dear All,
Two people have lost their lives as a result of the just-finished STS -- a 10-year-old boy who was drowned after being swept away from his family when they tried to cross a creek in the Tweed River catchment; and an elderly woman drowned in a creek near Nambucca Heads (S. of Coffs harbour, NSW). In addition, two girls aged 12 and 13 were pulled into the river (would that be the Bremer or the Brisbane?) on Saturday a/noon at Bundamba, between Brisbane and Ipswich, and had to cling to a branch to avoid getting swept away. They were rescued by police. There have been numerous emergency calls, but most have related to fallen trees, with only minor structural damage occurring. Minor to moderate flooding is occurring or has occurred in the Mary and Albert-Logan (Qld), and the Tweed, Richmond, and Bellinger Rivers (NSW). In addition, the Hinze Dam behind the Gold Coast has risen from (I think) 7.90m (or 7.09) below the spillway to only 3.92 below since Friday evening. (What percentage is it filled to now, Gold Coasters? Certainly an improvement on the 32% it was just over a year ago!).
BTW, those who have better skills than mine in analysing satpix &c...would this storm have been named as an STS had it been in the Atlantic? I am beginning to think we in Australia might have to move toward naming STS's American-style in order to get the message across that these babies are DANGEROUS, particularly as they seem to have replaced the true TC in our part of the world. Dramatic as Severe Wx Warnings can be, I don't think they quite pack the punch of true TC or STS warnings, and I certainly concur with the use of the Emergency Warning Siren (as reported by Carl) in instances such as this weekend's.
BTW2: Rain from the STS fell in Canberra this afternoon, but I don't think it amounted to much :(

From : Carl Smith To : TCDG
Sent : Sunday, March 7, 2004 12:15 AM Subject : Re: Qld-NSW Subtrop turns killer
Hi Mathew and All.
The Sat evening Ch 7 News said the Hinze Dam was 79% capacity with lots of water still flowing in after heavy rains through most of Friday night in the catchment - the high country behind the Gold Coast copped the brunt of the severe weather between 10pm Fri and 3am Sat - our water restrictions will finally be lifted at the next Gold Coast City Council meeting in a few days. Some good follow rains in coming weeks could see it finally reach 100% after several years of the worst drought on record here - it is raining lightly here now, but nothing like what got dumped here last night.

From: Carl Smith To: TCDG
Date: 03/07/2004 01:24 Subject: Re: Qld-NSW Subtrop turns killer
Hi Mathew and All.
Whilst there is certainly a strong case for developing a specific sub-tropical storm warning system, and perhaps even for naming them to draw public attention to them, having experienced this one, I now realise the wisdom of NOT issuing standard cyclone type warnings for this kind of event, although I would have said different a couple of days ago.
The Severe Weather Warnings combined with the use of the emergency signal on Friday was adequate, as it enabled good discussion in the media of the difference between this storm and a 'normal' cyclone, i.e, the fact that unlike a tropical cyclone where winds are most severe near the centre, the severe weather in this storm was a long way south of the 'main' centre (there were several centres at various times, so it was sometimes a bit difficult to pinpoint a particular one) - people up in the Wide Bay area where the 'main' centre crossed the coast did not get much in the way of severe weather - it was the area from the Sunshine Coast to NE NSW that really copped a battering, and from damage reports in the media, the most severe weather of the event was probably on the Gold Coast hinterland 10pm Fri to 3am Sat when the 'centre' was nearly stationary overland around 200 km away to the NW of Gympie, a very different situation to what would happen in a 'normal' cyclone.
When you look at the satpics, the really rough weather was mainly under the 'hook' of cloud to the S.
My only criticism is that the emergency signal should have been sounded with the warnings from around midday Thursday instead of waiting until Friday morning, as if Thursday's forecasts had panned out, many peoples first inkling that all hell was going to break loose would have been waking up to near storm force winds Friday morning when it is too late to make adequate preparations, and this was a very real risk as some in the commercial media who should have known better were not treating it very seriously at all on Thursday - I listen to ABC radio 612 Brisbane or ABC Coast FM on the Gold Coast most of the time, and they both did a pretty good job throughout the whole period.
It's a good thing that the system developed more slowly than initially forecast, as it gave time for people to prepare Friday morning when the emergency signal WAS being sounded with the warnings and the commercial media finally woke up that things were likely to get dangerous.
I think the BoM should be commended for the way they handled the situation, both for the quality of the warnings and their handling of the media - the use of the emergency signal in this kind of situation is apparently not their decision, they have to wait until instructed by another body, perhaps EMA, to include in the header of the warnings the instruction for the media to sound it.

From: Roger Edson To: TCDG
Date: 03/07/2004 07:21 Subject: Re: Qld-NSW Subtrop turns killer
I just went back and looked at Phil Smith's excellent recap of events for this system--nice job! Anyway, I don't think I could have ever warned on it based on the Subtropical Cyclone criteria. The central low pressure area never had a good enough deep convective signature...
But now, I'm thinking ...that this might have fit possibly into Mark Lander's Monsoon Gyre definition. I would like to see a set of 12-hourly pressure and wind field analyses to be sure. For sure, the origin was NOT in the mid-latitutes or subtropics---but in the tropics (even for the SH). I think there were several low pressure areas within the tail/trough region (look at the circular convection just east of the big low).
In Mark's gyre description, the central low pressure region often does not have any deep convection (it may at the end of its life as a final consolidation).
Anyway, just an idea--but still not sure how to warn on it and how to classify it properly.

From: Michael Bath To: TCDG
Date: 03/07/2004 08:24 Subject: Re: Qld-NSW Subtrop turns killer
Hi all,
The most severe weather occurred from 6pm Friday onwards on the NSW North Coast, with winds peaking locally between 1am and 3am Sat. Cape Byron measured a few gusts over 100km/h, though received a lot less rain than observing sites just inland from the coast: http://www.BoM.GOV.AU/products/IDN65092/IDN65092.94599.shtml
We lost power at 2.15am and it was not restored until 2.30pm - over 12 hours which is very annoying when relying on electric pumps for water ! (I live out of town). Rainfall fell at a rate of about 20mm/hour for about 6 hours to 1am - then eased, with the 24 hour total of 152mm - though the bulk of it fell in just 8 hours.
Yesterday afternoon I toured around the Lismore district to see the extent of flooding and any damage. Around my area (20km SW of Cape Byron), some trees had been brought down with many large (30cm diameter) branches snapped off, and leaf and trig litter was everywhere. Quite a number of roads were cut by floodwaters, and the main rivers were rising quickly in Lismore itself with a river peak of 7.5 metres expected last night (this is a moderate level and only inundates lower parts of the city).
I estimate winds reached 90 to 100 km/h at my property late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Winds veered from SE to E then NE (as the rain cleared) during the event, with quite strong northerlies during Saturday with mainly fine conditions.
cheers, Michael

From: Simon Clarke To: TCDG
Date: 03/07/2004 10:51 Subject: Re: Qld-NSW Subtrop turns killer -post comments
Absolutely 100% to 1000% agree .... I had the feeling initially that a name should have been assigned to a sub-tropical cyclone... but with the siren and the severe weather warnings...that was a good move on BoM's part for sure (well done !!!!!!!). I think.... most people took this storm seriously, I believe.
Also, it is good to keep consistency for the records....after all, this was not a tropical cyclone... just felt like one.
My only criticism is that schools were kept open when they should have been closed on Friday.
(PS - some people do some really silly things in flood just can't help people who can't help themselves -like plunging their 4 WD's into swollen creeks thinking that they are indestructable - sad all the same).

From: "Phil Smith" To: TCDG
Date: 03/07/2004 22:14 Subject: Re: Qld-NSW Subtrop turns killer -post comments
Regarding Simon's comment about the schools not being closed, I have to wholeheartedly agree. I was tuned in to ABC Coast FM (Gold Coast, Queensland) for most of Friday, and school after school was calling in asking them to broadcast messages for parents to come and collect their kids. Anxious parents calling schools jammed the switchboards so the telephones couldn't be used. The picture I gained from listening to this drama as it unfolded was one of utter chaos.
Closing the schools would also have meant a very significant decrease in the amount of traffic on the roads.
Here in Hong Kong the schools have always been closed at the approach of Typhoons. The deaths of a few kids in a severe weather event some years ago, prompted the government here to institute a Rainstorm Warning system in which schools are closed for severe weather even if it is not a typhoon.
Considering the chaos I heard on Friday, it may be a wise move for Education Queensland, in consultation with BoM, to institute a similar system there.

End of E-mail descriptions.

More may be added here later as details come to hand.

Bureau of Meteorology Preliminary Report

The following is the text of a hastily prepared preliminary report prepared at Brisbane BoM for the BoM Head Office.  It may still contain typos at this stage, although I have fixed a few obvious ones.  As I have also fixed paragraphs chopped apart by e-mail transmission, I may have inadvertently Inserted paragraph breaks in the wrong places or removed those that were originally there.

Preliminary Report on the Southeast Queensland Tropical Low
Lead up
As early as 1/2 March 2004 the Computer Forecast models were forecasting an evolving pattern conducive to the development of intense hybrid storms off Southern Queensland. This pattern involved the development of a cut off 500hPa low just inland from Rockhampton while a monsoon trough was active in the Coral Sea. None of the models at any stage forecast 10m gales. The 850hPa winds (used by us as a proxy for 10m gales in these cases) indicated the possibility of storm force wind These situations have been associated with past disastrous forecast failures (e.g. unwarned TC Annie hit the Sunshine Coast just to the north of Brisbane New Years Day 1963.)
So we started with outlooks of storm force winds on the coastal waters from Rockhampton to the Border at 5am 2 March 2004.

The first warning issued was a gale warning at 00.20 pm 2 March 2004 for the high seas for a tropical low developing near northeast of Willis Island. At 5.11 am 3 March 2004 the warning areas were expanded south to
include waters off the Gold Coast.
The first Coastal Waters gale warning for Bowen to Coolangatta was issued at 5am 3 March 2004.
The first storm warning was issued at 10am 4 March 2004 for coastal waters from Town of 1770 to Cape Moreton. This was extended south to Coolangatta at 3.11pm 4 March 2004.
The first Severe Weather Warning was issued at 4.12 am 4 March 2004 for Coastal and Mountain areas between Town of 1770 and Coolangatta. This was for wind gusts up to 120 km/h (later upgraded to 130km/h); ocean waves averaging 6 metres in height; heavy rain with local flooding and inundation from storm surge on the high tides on Friday 5 March 2004. These warnings were reissued every 3 hours and the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) was turned on at 7.42 am Friday 5 March 2004.
The first flood warning for coastal rivers between Maryborough and the Gold Coast was issued at 3:02pm on Friday the 5th of March 2004.

Warning Strategy
Dynamically this system was developing in a similar fashion to a severe east coast low except for the fact it was moving over waters where the sea surface temperatures were 28 degrees Celsius. Often with these systems (Lord Howe Bomb June 2003 or the Sydney storm of 26/27 February 2004) quikscat show very tight circulations with at least storm force winds near the centre and gales right around the centre. If this was to
happen we considered naming it as a TC. Because of the strong low up near Willis Island it developed as a very elongated system with no tight focus and as a result the strongest winds were well removed from the centre so
that severe weather warnings appeared to be the way to go.

There may be 3 fatalities associated with this event. A man is missing in the flooded Mary River near Gympie, a 10-year-old boy who was drowned after being swept away from his family when they tried to cross a creek in the Tweed River catchment; and an elderly woman drowned in a creek near Nambucca Heads (South of Coffs Harbour).

Two people were rescued from a 4WD in a flooded creek on the northern Gold Coast. Five people were rescued from the top of their car in a flooded stream near Caboolture north of Brisbane. At Bundamba near Ipswich two girls fell into strong rapids and were rescued by Police. At Murphys Creek near Toowoomba fire-fighters rescued a stranded motorist. Five people were rescued after they were swept into the sea by the run up from large waves.
In Moreton Bay a French yachtsman was rescued after an air and sea search.

Power outages
Around 106,000 customers lost power during the storm.

Building, environmental and infrastructure damage.
The State Emergency Services (SES) says its crews were called out to about 200 jobs across the Brisbane area, 80 on the Gold Coast and 70 on the Sunshine Coast.
Most were minor roof damage and sandbagging requests.
Police say there were many trees and power lines down across Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba.
On the Gold Coast, police say some cars became bogged in flooded roadways, although there are no reports of any injuries.
The Warrego highway at Cunningham's Gap, west of Brisbane, was closed due to rockslides.
Four metres of roadway were washed away on Sydney Street at Brassall in Ipswich as a bus passed over it.

Waves and storm surge.
Very large long period waves were generated by the storm. Waves with significant wave heights of almost 6m and maximum heights of almost 12 m were recorded on the Mooloolaba wave rider buoy around 4pm Friday 5 March 2004. On the buoy off Stradbroke Island the corresponding readings were 7.1m and 14.3m around 5pm 5 March 2004 and coming from the east northeast.
The peak height measured on the Tweed Buoy was just over 14m and this occurred 3am Saturday 6 March 2004.when the significant wave height was between 5 and 6metres. The wave periods were almost 13 seconds and approached from the east-northeast.
Even in Moreton Bay a Maximum wave height of over 3.5 metres was measured around 1am Saturday 6 March 2004.
The worst effect from storm surge appears to be on the Friday nights high tide at Currumbin on the Gold Coast when cars were floated around the car park. At present a car is being dragged from the ocean near Bilinga on the
Gold Coast.This was not a big tide (0.74m below the Highest Astronomical Tide. (HAT)) and therefore the wave effects appear to have added over a metre to the tide.
Northeasterly gales in Moreton Bay early on Saturday raised the level of the Bay 0.6metres. The winds eased somewhat but still water levels almost reached HAT on the 9.47am high tide Saturday. This combined with waves caused inundation of low-lying areas.

Significant observations
Cape Moreton 94594 strongest winds were at 3pm 5 March 130/56knots (10 min mean) and max gust 67knots. Note these Almos automatic weather stations (AWS) appear to have very low gust factors compared with the old Dynes anemometers.Cape Moreton reported storm force winds from 10.57am to 03.30pm 5 March.
Double Island Point (94584) also reported storm force winds from 11.30am to 1.30pm 5 March 2004 from the south-southeast. The maximum 10-minute mean was 49 knots.
The Gold Coast Seaway reported southeasterly gales from 2pm to 8pm 5 March with maximum gusts to 50 knots and then easterly gales from 10.30 pm 5 March 2004 to 2am 6 March 2004.
Moreton Bay South (AWS) reported southeasterly gales from 3.55pm to 5.18pm 5 March 2004 with maximum gusts to 49 knots. And east northeasterly gales around 1am 6 March 2004.
Moreton Bay Central (AWS) reported southeasterly gales from noon to 5.28pm 5 March 2004 with maximum gusts to 56 knots. Then easterly gales from 7.49pm to 10.17pm 5 March 2004. Then easterly gales turning
north/northeasterly from 0011 am 6 March 2004 to 1.30am 6 March 2004 with maximum gusts to 51 knots.
Moreton Bay North (AWS) reported southeasterly gales from 1.04pm to 4.30pm 5 March 2004 with maximum gusts to 46 knots.
Redcliffe (AWS) reported south to southeasterly gales from 1.00pm to 5.33pm 5 March 2004 with maximum gusts to 49 knots. Then east and east to northeasterly gales from midnight to 1.22am 6 March 2004.
Heron Island (AWS) reported gales from the south-southwest from 10.35am 5 March 2004 4pm 5 March 2004 with max gusts to 49 knots.
Rundle Island (AWS) reported southerly gales from 7.30am 5 March 2004 noon 5 March 2004 with max gusts to 50 knots.
Cato Island (94394) AWS reported southeasterly gales from 11pm 4 March 2004 to 4am 5 March 2004.
Frederick Reef (94393) AWS reported southeasterly gales from 3pm 4 March 2004 to 1am 5 March 2004 with the maximum 10 minute wind of 39 knots.
Gannet Cay (94379) AWS reported south to southwesterly gales from 8am 5 March 2004 to noon 5 March 2004 with the maximum 10 minute wind of 42 knots.

24 hour rainfall totals to 9am Saturday 6 March 2004 included:
TOMEWIN 284.0mm
MALENY 239.0mm
CANUNGRA 196.2mm
HINZE DAM 194.0mm
MT NEBO 190.6mm
COOROY 182.6mm
EUMUNDI 161.0mm
WOODFORD 157.0mm
HIGHVALE 155.2mm
PETRIE 154.0mm

End of BoM Preliminary Report

Further Discussion well after the event:

The following discussion of this storm occurred on the forum at on 5th Feb 2006:
Spunky Squeak     posted 05-02-2006 12:11
I found the above link of the Hybrid cyclone that affected widespread areas of SE QLD and NE NSW.
I would like furthur information about why wasn't it called a cyclone but got the name Severe Hybrid Cyclone.
It's quite fascinating.
From: Caboolture, SE QLD,
Stormy Spott     posted 05-02-2006 13:35
I remember that system, one of my favourites .
The BOM came close to calling it a Tropical Cyclone, but because the winds were to the south of the system, and not to the north, the requirements for TC category didn't fit. However the winds from this system were equal to a weak Cat 2 TC, and a small storm surge did happen but didn't cause much damage as it happened at low tide.
The other reason it wasn't a TC is due to the it was a mixed tropical low plus other stuff, which I don't quite remember what but I'm sure others can elaborate on that.
The last I heard, BOM was working out if a new warning was needed, at the time a 'Severe Weather Warning' with the Standard Emergency Warning Signal, was given, but I think the BOM is looking at a new warning, something like, 'Severe Hybrid Storm Warning' or something like that...but I could be incorrect.
Just out of curiousity, if the BOM did call it a TC, what name would've it been given? Anybody know ?
From: Wellington Point, SE Qld
Spunky Squeak     posted 05-02-2006 13:41
It would of been called Grace. And thanks for that info.
From: Caboolture, SE QLD,    
sean M     posted 05-02-2006 13:51
wow spunky that was great, i remember that as well, it was so bad here in gympie alot of kids had to leave school early because the roads were flooding to their homes, and of course the panicking parents heard the siren on the radio and went to pick them up, it was a good thing they did because when mum went to pick up me and my brother the winds were over 90km/h with torrential rain that was flooding the small gullies around the town
From: Pie Creek (Gympie) 156m asl   
Phil Smith     posted 05-02-2006 23:47
Yes, I well remember that storm ... it is my web site that the above link leads to ... it was an exciting game of "What will/should the BoM do?" for quite a while, as you may gather from the e-mails quoted on my page.
Generally I only start dedicated pages for Tropical Cyclones that will affect Hong Kong, but I quickly realised that this storm was so special it warranted a page to record thoughts on for possible further study. I did the same for the Hurricane which struck Brazil during the same year.
Regarding the question of whether or not this kind of storm should be named, I think that given the wind damage and flood damage that occurred at the time, it might have been helpful if it had been named even though it did not fit all characteristics of a genuine tropical storm.
The Americans allocate names from their TC list to what they term "Sub Tropical Storms" in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins when the storms attain winds of tropical storm strenghth even though the storm has not become a TC. They do this because it gives a better warning for shipping or landmasses in the path of the storm; people simply take more notice when a storm is named "Tom", "Dick", or "Harry" rather than it just being some unnamed entity. It is as though naming the storm forces listeners/viewers to take more notice of the accompanying warnings.
From: Hong Kong

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