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Weather Bureau's Rod Webb owes the people of southeast Queensland an apology

Any window showed more than the forecast

Bureau collage graphic


FORECASTERS have for the first time admitted they were caught unaware by the freak morning super-cell storm that smashed Brisbane's inner suburbs last November.

The bureau has repeatedly claimed it had acted within its guidelines when it failed to issue an early specific warning about the storm, which lashed the inner suburbs between 10am and 11am on Saturday, November 17.

Despite more than 1000 lightning strikes being recorded in the half hour before storm cell smashed into the inner suburbs at 10.30am, a specific warning was not issued until 10.50am, by which time the storm had passed over and was almost at the coast.

By that time there was flooding in some suburbs and dozens of calls for help had been made to authorities.

At the time, bureau bosses backed the decision to not issue a specific warning.

They said the storm had not met the bureau's threshold for a specific "severe thunderstorm" warning until just before the warning had been issued and that a series of general warnings about storm activity over that weekend was sufficient.

It can now be revealed that the day after, the bureau's Queensland regional director Rod Webb wrote in an internal email that the forecasters on duty had been caught unaware by the storm as it had blown up unusually early in the day and directly over the inner suburbs.

The email, only now released after a Freedom of Information application by The Courier-Mail, said: "The storms developed a little earlier than anticipated and forecasters felt the first wave would not produce severe weather.

"This was true on the most part but once the storms approached the city, forecasters issued warnings based on radar evidence."

In an interview yesterday following the release of the documents, Mr Webb acknowledged the warning should have come earlier.

But he denied any shortage of front-line resources at the bureau was to blame.

"That was a meteorological issue rather than necessarily having more people look at it," Mr Webb said.

"In hindsight, you would have like to have something out, but we felt ... much of the community would have been pretty well prepared for severe weather."


COMMENT:  Rod Webb would make the people of southeast Queensland a lot less nervous if he took a sabbatical during next summer's storm season and went  back to forecasting the weather  for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. He should be pushing his bosses and the government relentlessly for more staff for the Brisbane office of the Bureau of Meteorology. What has he done to get more staff?  He owes it to the people of Queensland to publicly explain in detail exactly what new staff and facilities, if any, he has been actively seeking.