Couple shelter under mattress as tornado rips through home

Parts of southeast Queensland remain on thunderstorm watch after a destructive tornado ripped through a town.

It dumped tennis ball sized hail stones and left one terrified couple seeking shelter under a mattress.

Hail up to 7cm in diameter was reported in areas from Kingaroy to Gympie from just after midday as dangerous supercell storms barrelled across the region towards the Sunshine Coast.

Greg and Gail Hellmuth felt the brunt of it. They were forced to hide under a mattress as their newly renovated home in Tansey peeled apart.

“We lifted the mattress over us and stayed there,” she told 7 News.

They say the thought of starting those renovations again is now too much to bear.

Their house was pelted by tennis ball sized hailstones. Image: 7 News
Greg and Gail Hellmuth sheltered under a mattress as their newly renovated home in Tansey peeled apart. Image: 7 News

People caught up in the tempest have expressed shock at the ferocity of the winds and the scale of damage done by hailstones that have destroyed cars, homes and sheds

Young mum Fiona Simpson believes her four-month-old daughter could have died in their car had she not used her own body to shield the baby when huge hail broke their windscreen while leaving Nanango on Thursday.

“I looked down and I could see she was screaming but I couldn’t even hear her, that’s how loud it was,” she told the ABC, adding the hail struck with such force that it “shredded” her grandmother’s skin.

Ms Simpson and her grandmother suffered cuts and severe bruising but her baby escaped with just some bumps to her head.

Young mum Fiona Simpson used her own body as a shield to save her baby daughter. Images: 7 News

Authorities expect the damage bill from Thursday’s wild weather to be hefty, with crops wiped out, roofs torn from homes and the power network hit.

Talks are underway to determine if the hard-hit South Burnett region should be declared a disaster zone, with entire crops lost at harvest time, and homes damaged.

At Blackwater, in central Queensland, winds gusted to 144km/h, a wind speed associated with a Category 2 cyclone.

Queensland Dairy Farmers president Brian Tessmann said the storm’s fury at his Coolabunia farm was like nothing he’d ever seen, with winds tearing the roofs from his home and dairy.

He said it was nothing short of bedlam as his house lost its roof, forcing him to hold doors shut as he watched debris swirl around inside its walls.

A chicken farm at Tansey saw 800 birds killed by hail, while a number of horses and other livestock were injured at multiple properties.

About 1000 insurance claims for storm damage have already been lodged.