Storm Australian Severe Weather Forum

Severe Weather Discussion => Australian Severe Storms, Weather Events and Storm Chasing => Topic started by: Michael Bath on 29 February 2008, 01:50:15 AM

Title: Bonnie Hills NSW Waterspout / Tornado: Monday 25 February 2008
Post by: Michael Bath on 29 February 2008, 01:50:15 AM
Been waiting to find some information about this since a TV news item appeared on Prime on Wednesday evening. The caravan park affected is right on the coast and the event was most likely a waterspout coming ashore. Radar shows quite a lot of heavy shower activity developed over the region during the evening in a localise area of convergence.

The local paper ( writes (and of course it's a mini-tornado again):

Destroyed: 15 seconds in the eye of the storm - Port Macquarie News
27 February 2008, 1:00AM - By TERRI VAN DIJK

IT only took 15 seconds for a mini-tornado to cause thousands of dollars' damage to the Bonny Hills Caravan Park on Monday night.

The frightening gust of wind had 50-year-old Grant Kennerwell cowering on his caravan floor as glass and debris smashed around him. Moments later, the Macksville resident was out in the pouring rain with a torch, searching for bodies in a wasteland of twisted metal and broken belongings. "I was terrified I would find someone in one of the caravans," the Bonny Hills Caravan Park site owner said. "The noise was like a freight train and even though it only lasted a few seconds it felt like ages."

About 10.15pm on Monday, Port Macquarie police were called to the caravan park, 25 minutes' drive south of Port Macquarie, after a report of a mini tornado. Fortunately, no one was injured in the freak event. But two caravans were destroyed.

Park manager Judy Hancock said there were about 30 people in the park at the time of the storm, but only Mr Kennerwell was in the path of the strong gust of wind. Other residents slept right through the incident, including some nearby campers.

Newcastle couple John and Helen Sager had just spent almost $10,000 renovating their van in the Bonny Hills park. While the couple are insured for $25,000, they do not think that will come close to covering the cost of the damage. "Our van is totally destroyed," said an upset Mrs Sager. "We've been coming here on holiday for 14 years and never seen anything like this." The Sagers' van weighed more than 3000kg and was about 8.5m long. It was turned on its side and the roof of the van ended up in a backyard about 500m up the road from the park. "We drove up from Newcastle about 2.30am after we received the call from the police to see what we could salvage," the 46-year-old mother said.

Copyright © 2008. Rural Press Limited (Fairfax Digital)
Title: RE: Bonnie Hills NSW Waterspout / Tornado: Monday 25 February 2008
Post by: Steven on 29 February 2008, 02:44:14 AM
Pfft, they wouldn't know what a tornado was unless they saw one. I suppose we have so called "journos" to thank for that.
Title: RE: Bonnie Hills NSW Waterspout / Tornado: Monday 25 February 2008
Post by: grantk on 15 March 2008, 07:08:28 AM
Hi, Steve & Michael, Can fill you in with a few details about this event.

You're right Steve re: journos' ability to report correctly. Firstly they spelt my surname wrong's spelt Kennewell..not KenneRwell. Secondly, I presently reside in Marrickville,.not Macksville and finally I did not describe the noise as a "freight train". That cliched bit of trollip was pure journalistic licence (I will perhaps concede that while I believe, I "sheltered " on the floor... "cowering" MAY be a more appropriate term).

RE: The tornado. It hit approx. 10 pm. and was part of a pretty nasty storm, buckets of rain, wind gusts, lightning etc. - normal storm stuff. I was sitting on the step of the caravan that drops onto the annex floor, as such no funnel was visible (to me). That afternoon I had worked pretty hard removing an old rooftop mounted air conditioner, that had plagued me for some 18-20 years with leaks. So I was occupied looking up at the roof, smug in the knowledge that I had finally resolved the leaking .

What I will now describe took between 4 to 7 secs.

The noise torrential rain makes on a caravan and hard annex roof is extremely loud, however there was a distinct change to the TYPE of sound. I've really struggled to describe this to people.(which may explain the journo's cliche), but what I keep falling back on is this; Imagine the sound wind makes when it blows through a stand of she-oaks...then give it more "substance"..(a bit like AC/DC on the radio compared to  a live AC/DC concert). You don't just hear - you feel the noise. This was accompanied by what I can only describe as a very noticeable drop in pressure as if the air had suddenly gone from the caravan.

The annex had only been erected the prior day and had yet to be furnished with curtains. As such, I had hung a beach towel by 2 screws from the top of the caravan door to afford some degree of privacy. The towel went horizontal. No violent flapping, just flat and as stiff as a board sideways. It quivered only at the end. The annex had gone and stuff flew past me including a full size masonry (concrete) block on an UPWARD trajectory. Glass was breaking everywhere.

I remember curling into a small space, between a small bar fridge and the inbuilt bench / bed at the end of the van. The van was vibrating very rapidly & quite violently at the other end. Only 2 days previously I had tethered one end of the van (the end I was cowering !) with large chains & turnbuckles. I hadn't got around to the other end. Then it stopped.  4 to 7 seconds.

Was it a tornado ?

I believe it was. I also believe I have some street cred. when it comes to  tornadoes.

As a 10yr. old I saw a tornado...classic white funnel rip the roof off our home in Kendall, some 15 min. drive inland  from Bonny Hills. My parents were in it at the time. A couple of years later a tornado at Laurieton. 5 min drive from Bonny Hills picked up an entire weatherboard house & dumped it 20 metres away on the road (could this area be our "alley"?). In addition, as a glider pilot I have spent many hours watching storms at our Bathurst airfield witnessing two other classic white funnels (one from the air) as well as many clear air dust devils or willy willies as we called them.

Viewing the aftermath the next day left no doubt it was a tornado. The path of destruction was very distinct and complete. One van & annex completely torn apart, the next 5 metres away untouched. I can only give thanks I wasn't in the annex when it hit.

The result of all this brings me to a very uncomfortable conclusion. There is NO time to prepare. As stated, from the moment of even sensing something different, took less than 10 secs.The time between recognizing danger and the danger hitting was about 3 secs.

God help anyone who could've been asleep when it hit.

Hope this helps. Cheers grantk.

Title: RE: Bonnie Hills NSW Waterspout / Tornado: Monday 25 February 2008
Post by: Michael Bath on 15 March 2008, 11:48:13 AM
Thanks for the detailed description Grant - very informative. Can you recall which direction the storm and tornado appeared to come from ?

The radar loop shows the cell quite well on the 11.00UTC (10pm) scan just south of Port Macquarie:

---> Newcastle 256km (

The Williamstown sounding earlier in the day does indicate some potential for rotating cells - though is many hours prior to the event at Bonnie Hills.

( ( Williamtown 00z
Title: RE: Bonnie Hills NSW Waterspout / Tornado: Monday 25 February 2008
Post by: grantk on 15 March 2008, 03:53:00 PM
...I was watching the storm develop during the late afternoon towards the north...maybe with some west component.Sadly, iI have to admit to being in the pub between about 6.30 -8.00 pm.

As for the direction of travel of the tornado...I'm pretty sure from the debri pattern it came from the north,...maybe NNE (...from the sea ) & travelled to the south west.Debri was found some 2 km away SW of the caravan park.

 I am happy to provide you with a map of the park with damage & pathway indicated. Additionally I have photo's of damage if they were to be of help.Trouble is I'm abit of a luddite and I use film. I can post them if required.
Cheers grantk.
Title: RE: Bonnie Hills NSW Waterspout / Tornado: Monday 25 February 2008
Post by: Jimmy Deguara on 15 March 2008, 04:01:49 PM

By all means supply any form of evidence as such events like these are relatively uncommon given direct hits and humans being affected.

Any pictures, a map depicting the path and feel free to use a compass to check direction if required. Do you know of any others who may have witnessed the event? Feel free to include their accounts as well.

Should be an interesting report.


Jimmy Deguara