Shipping containers were scattered like building blocks and small planes broken free from their bounds as a severe storm generated cyclonic winds in Queensland’s south-east on Sunday.
Trees crashed into homes and golf-ball-sized hail fell near Gympie, where at least one roof was torn from a building.
On Monday morning, authorities were assessing the damage from the powerful “micro bursts” that quickly accelerated what was already a powerful storm.
Gusts at Brisbane Airport peaked at 157km/h, the strongest since 1985 and as powerful as a category 2 cyclone.
In a furious eight-minute period, moveable stairs crashed into one plane and several smaller aircraft were blown free of their chocks, according to Brisbane Airport Corporation spokeswoman Leonie Vandeven.
Flights were delayed and cancelled as planes circled, waiting for the storm to blow over, and shade sails were ripped from car parks and taxi ranks.
Images from helicopters flying above the Port of Brisbane showed massive shipping containers knocked over in their “hundreds”.
“What I saw was something I have never seen before in my life,” traffic reporter Dave Andrews said.
“As you know, those shipping containers are stacked fairly high and fairly wide and they are just everywhere…
“On closer examination, it just looked like a giant game of Jenga, just blocks everywhere.”
A Port of Brisbane spokesman said the port remained open with no impact on vessel movements but some delays were expected.
He said most of the toppled containers had been empty.
Hail netting in vehicle storage areas and roofs of some buildings and sheds were also damaged.
Similarly ferocious gusts at Bauple, south of Maryborough, tore the roof from a building at Marcus and Yolande Bromet’s Macadamia House.
“The roof was scattered over 100 metres by the wind,” Mr Bromet told Nine News.
“The power lines to the shop was completely brought down.”
State Emergency Service volunteers were responding to 57 calls for help across the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast and Wide Bay Burnett, with a handful dealt with in Brisbane on Sunday night.
Fraser Coast Mayor Chris Loft told the ABC the clean-up could take days.
BAC spokeswoman Ms Vandeven said clearing scattered trees and debris was expected to take most of the day, with minimal impact on operations.
She said airport and airline workers did a “spectacular job” responding to the storm on Sunday.
“By all accounts it was unexpected and ferocious and it lasted for about eight minutes,” she said.
“I just think we’re very lucky to have come out the other end with the amount of damage that’s been done.”
Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Sean Fitzgerald said Sunday’s particularly strong storm was just short of a supercell but intensified rapidly as it reached the coast.
“When it got to the coast, it got a lot of extra moisture and that gave it just a little bit of extra updraft,” he said.
“Then when that updraft sort of came down again, that’s when it really slammed down again and brought that stronger wind out.”
After a string of baking hot days and afternoon storms, south-east Queensland is expected to cool and dry off this week, with a top of 30 on Monday in Brisbane before expected maximums of 27 or 28 degrees for the rest of the week.
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