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Weather bureau under pump over staffing as funds dry up

Brisbane BOM chief Rob Webb has staunchly defended
the decision not to issue a storm alert on Saturday
morning despite the fact that a 40km storm front -
depicted in red and black on the Bureau's
own radar - had already hit Ipswich.
QUEENSLANDERS should brace for further rough weather as forecasters predict more storms later this week and a turbulent storm season ahead.

Authorities have stressed the importance of being storm-ready this season as the weather bureau yesterday defended itself against criticism over tardy warnings ahead of Saturday morning's storm which lashed the southeast.

Forecasters are expecting showers and storms on Thursday and weather bureau chief Rob Webb said more bad weather was predicted "coming into the 'peak' of the storm season".

People should be prepared for the worst, he said.

About 4500 insurance claims have been lodged for hail damage, flash flooding and falling branches while 48 SES groups answered 650 requests from Toowoomba to Brisbane.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said it appeared the bureau had not been able to keep up with storms on Saturday but did a good job on Sunday.

The Federal Government defended the bureau, insisting the agency has enough staff.

But it came under attack from Opposition MP Teresa Gambaro, who said her Brisbane electorate was not given sufficient warning.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would take the issue of resourcing to her federal colleagues.

"People need up-to-date information. More and more people are clicking on to the bureau site," she said. "If there are things that can be done to improve the situation, then they should be undertaken."

Parliamentary Secretary Don Farrell, who has responsibility for the bureau, said forecasters had to follow rules before issuing warnings or the public would not take predictions seriously.

Mr Webb said the bureau was adequately staffed and a new forecasting system being fitted would have no bearing on how storms were read.

One additional staff member had been rostered on, meaning six forecasters were working on Saturday and Sunday. Two of those were on the severe weather desk.

An independent review of the bureau last year warned it was at its limit in providing extreme weather forecasting.

Senator Farrell said the Government spent $5 million on 20 meteorologists from overseas and a further 20 locals to be trained up around the country.

He said he had been advised that additional staff would not have helped on Saturday.

Emergency Management Minister Nicola Roxon said the bureau was often asked to do the impossible in predicting unpredictable weather.

"You can't assume that we are going to be able to always beat Mother Nature," Ms Roxon said.

Mr Webb stuck by staff who issued the late warning on Saturday, saying it was at the bottom end of severe and not to be confused with massive supercells that developed later in the day and Sunday.

"There was no evidence on radar to anyone that it was severe until it got to the CBD when we put out a warning ... in a perfect world we would have preferred to have it out earlier," he said.

Yesterday, bright sunshine could not melt the hail that lingered on Lyn and Dennis Ryan's fig and lychee trees at Wamuran, more than 18 hours after storms swept through.

COMMENT: BOM Brisbane chief Rob Webb still says there "was no evidence on radar to anyone that it was severe until it got to the CBD when we put out a warning".  You must be kidding.  Have another look at your own weather radar at 10.12am on Saturday:
A cursory look at your own radar image shows a massive 40km storm front from Wivenhoe Dam in the north to Harrisville in the south depicted in yellow and bright red, with a black centre southeast of Marburg.  The storm was about to hit Ipswich as it moved on its highly destructive path towards Brisbane.
This one radar image is damning evidence in its own right that the Brisbane Bureau of Meteorology let the people of southeast Queensland down very badly.
No one one is blaming you or your staff at a personal level.  Things can always go awry when trying to accurately predict storm events.
Instead of defending the indefensible, why haven't you adopted the smart Peter Beattie approach which would have seen a simple apology followed by a promise to do better in the future.
The people of southeast Queensland expect no more - and no less.