Flooding in Toowoomba.
Flooding in Toowoomba. Tracey Machin

Amateur predicted 'inland tsunami'

ON January 10, amateur weather buff Neil Pennell did what trained meteorologists did not — predict the devastating and tragic flood event which tore though Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley claiming 23 lives.

The weather enthusiast was watching the weather develop that day and at 1.10pm Mr Pennell posted his concerns on the Weatherzone online forum.

“Do you think the Bureau of Metrology is on the case with that cell? Those rain rates between Esk, Crows Nest and Toowoomba are truly frightening,” Mr Pennell said.

“I fear that there could be a dangerous flash flood very soon, particularly in Grantham. Am I over-reacting?”

In a submission to the Queensland Floods Commission which sits in Toowoomba today and tomorrow, Mr Pennell said that he still felt considerable guilt for not doing more to warn people on that day.

“I did not make those posts on a whim. I made them because I was very concerned about what I saw on the radar.

“My experience told me that a dangerous situation had arisen.

“This brings me no pleasure. Indeed it draws my attention to my own failure to act in the situation and I have carried considerable guilt that I took my concerns no further than the Weatherzone forum.

“Instead I watched in horror as the event unfolded,” Mr Pennell said.

The Bureau of Meteorology has come under fire with suggestions they did not do enough to warn people about the impeding disaster.

In his submission to the inquiry Mr Pennell said that Bureau of Meteorology did not act simply because it was not familiar with the catchment areas.

“I think that the BOM's failure to identify the severe flash flood at Helidon initially stemmed from the fact they had not identified the initial danger signs on the radar but more due to a lack of insight into the nature of the catchment where the rain was falling.

“However, the fact that someone with my limited formal meteorology/hydrology experience could be made to sound like Nostradamus while the Bureau of Meteorology remained silent about the impending danger in the Lockyer Valley does need to be thoroughly investigated.”

To watch live streaming of the commission visit: www.floodcommission.qld.gov.au

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