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(Bob Turner’s account of Twisting Tornado)

Our group of islands didn’t escape the carnage that hit this area of Queensland over the Christmas/New Year period.

Not quite on the scale that belted the Gold Coast, it was still significant with a Tornado causing havoc on Christmas Eve on Russell Island in particular.

Island artist and our friend Bob Turner just happened to be in the middle of it all when it all happened. This is is account . . . 

Christmas Eve 2023, Fisherman’s Shack, Karrumel Passage, Russell Island.

Forecast: Severe storms over Moreton Bay.

Storms alway excite me.

Being a sailor ver vast parts of the world, I have been through my share with various degrees of disaster. 

I was not prepared for this one second of sheer impact.

The impending storm on Christmas Eve seemed like a routine affair. It wasn’t!

Drinking my coffee on the Fisherman’s Shack back deck at 2/05pm i watched the lightning and thunder travelling west in the form of a ‘twister’.

Lightning stuck the mast of two moored yachts out in the passage with no visible damage. I had no real concerns. It was apparently going to pass me by.

It then suddenly changed 180 degrees direction and crossed the land with winds swirling at a stunning 160kph.

It took down a 30 metre tall gum tree, roots and all, then obliterated She Oaks, Casurinas and Pines alongside the island boat ramp. 

It then crossed Jock Kennedy Park with more trees literally ‘exploding’.

My shack was next in line.

In a split second it tore apart a big gum and destroyed the power lines to Karragarra and Macleay Islands.

It then peeled off the roof of my small cottage.

The flash of light when the power cables came together, was blinding.

I stood spellbound, coffee cup still in my hand.” Bob concluded.

He then watched the amazing storm phenomenon move out again and it then came back onto the major gravel carpark just up from the jetty where it splintered trees that fell on some cars.

It then hit the Russell Island Recreation Centre where there was some minor damage and went on to hit the Aunty Alice Cafe where there was further damage with even some patrons receiving some slight injuries in the turmoil. It then dissipated.

The rain that followed on New Years Day and beyond, also had a huge impact.

More than 500 mls fell on and around all the islands and falling trees and limbs were apparent everywhere.

• Bob Turner and his ‘flyaway’ roof!


With a Happy Christmas season in sight, many islanders left for family and friends in different locations and other States.

The Friendly Bay Islander family headed to Wongawallen, half way up Mount Tamborine, to enjoy Christmas at our son, Daniel’s property. All our family were there.

Christmas lunch and gift giving was lovely and everyone started to settle in for the night.

Storms were predicted, but nothing like what was about to unfold.

It has since been described as the worst storm in 100 years on the Gold Coast, and we don’t disagree.

We were caught fair in the middle of it, starting about 10pm when the house started to shake and rumble.

Because of a large family gathering, there were three big caravans on the site, with some family members inside.

The storm hit so hard, that we could be forgiven that Armageddon was upon us. It was that bad.

It has since been reported there were 3.5 million lightning strikes.

Being in the middle of it, the light was constant from strikes and we could watch the devastation unfolding in real time, as if we were in a major cricket stadium at night under floodlights.

What we didn’t realise it was actually a major tornado, a twister of the worst possible kind.

We finally got to bed, not fully realising the devastation that had occurred.

We rose at 4.30am on Boxing Day for the full devastation to reveal itself.

It was clear that the community would have to save themselves.

Fortunately, one of our sons had just purchased a small tractor with a front end loader.

The work it did in clearing the roads and driveways over the next eight hours was brilliant.

We gingerly made our way out later on Boxing Day after a night of hell, with the main road down the mountain nothing but a bush track.

We have never seen so many fallen and splintered trees, with power lines down everywhere and driving under some of them to get out.

Over half a metre of rain on New Year’s Day added further misery and devastation with flooding everywhere in the already devastated areas.

It was three weeks before the overworked Energex crews were able to re-connect power to the houses where we were located.



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