110km/h winds: Huge dust storm engulfs Queensland town

·Environment Editor
·4-min read

A savage dust storm with winds close to 110 kilometres per hour has swept through parts of Queensland.

Computer modelling from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) suggests the storm could have had a base of three kilometres, which it describes as "quite high".

Twenty-two-year-old Pearl Pocock watched the thick, red cloud approach Boulia, a central-western town, late on Sunday afternoon.

A massive dust storm descends on the Queensland town of Boulia caught on drone footage.
Drone footage captures the moment before a mammoth dust storm hit Boulia. Source: Leaim Shaw

Time lapse video recorded on her phone was taken moments before she ran to seek shelter.

"It just came a lot quicker than I was actually expecting, I had to stop the video to go back inside," she told Yahoo News Australia.

"It was definitely a little bit scary, watching such a massive wall of dust come towards you."

'Panic' as dust storm approaches outback town

Across town, another resident, 33-year-old Leaim Shaw, was alerted by his wife that a wall of red dust was cruising towards the tiny outback town.

Fearless from his days working as a rodeo clown, Mr Shaw ignored his her calls to prepare for the incoming storm and instead decided to launch his drone into the sky.

The sky over Boulia turned orange as the dust storm approached.
The sky began to turn orange as the storm approached. Source: Leaim Shaw

“It was all still for starters, and I was inside and my wife was saying to come and tie everything down,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“So I walked outside and said: 'What are you panicking for?'

“She said: 'Look at that.'

“I said: 'Holy....'

“So I quickly grabbed my drone.

“She said: 'Don’t worry about your drone.'

“I said: 'I want to get footage.'"

What he filmed appears apocalyptic.

Dust extends as high as the eye can see towards the tiny town of Boulia's 300 residents.

The video is silent, but on the ground, Mr Shaw said he could hear the wind getting louder as the storm approached.

Dust storm like a scene from Mad Max

Mr Shaw said he got his drone back down again before the wind hit the house.

Describing it as the biggest dust storm in eight years, Mr Shaw said the house rattled and the sky turned red as he sheltered inside.

“Frankly, like there was a lot of wind behind it,” he said.

“It blew up all inside the house and got into it, there was 100 kilometre [an hour] winds behind it so I’m surprised there was no damage to the town.

“Only wheelie bins have fallen over.”

The storm, which Mr Shaw said was like a scene from the 2015 movie Max Max: Fury Road, impacted the nearby communities of Mount Isa, Dajarra and Urandangi.

After the winds subsided, seven millimetres of rain fell, settling the dust around the town.

Similar weather events are not uncommon across the region, but they are usually smaller.

Temperatures swiftly drop by 12 degrees amid dust storm

At The Monument near Urandangi, winds were measured at 109 kilometres per hour.

Temperatures at the weather station show it was 40 degrees at 4:30pm and by 5:00pm it was 28 degrees.

BoM meteorologist Helen Kirkup told Yahoo News Australia the dust cloud was formed by a line of thunderstorms in the area.

"It was really hot and the base of the storm was quite high," she said.

"The wind gusts that can come out of these storms have the ability to be quite strong as the downdraft comes out.

"Storms are disorganised things, but sometimes they'll organise together and on Sunday they did form along a line."

A dust storm travels towards Pearl Pocock's camera in Queensland's Boulia.
Pearl Pocock said the dust approached faster than she expected. Source: Supplied

Smartphones lead to increased reporting of extreme weather

Examining just an isolated event like Sunday's massive storm, it's impossible to tell whether climate change played a role.

Looking generally at the physics, an increase in heat leads to an increase in energy and more extreme weather events in the long term.

Ms Kirkup said there was another factor to consider alongside the role of climate change when it comes to assessing the frequency of such reports.

Smartphone accessibility means severe weather is being recorded by members of the public more frequently.

"Sometimes it seems like we're getting bigger hail or bigger dust storms, but it's really that we're getting more observations playing a role in that," Ms Kirkup said.

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