Storm hits clubbies
By ED SOUTHORN
They were still talking about it at Greenmount Beach yesterday - a heavy metal patrol shelter with eight lifesavers inside was tossed on its roof by a freak mini-tornado.
Six of the eight volunteers were taken to hospital. One suffered a broken collarbone, two continue to suffer headaches and all have cuts and lots of bruises.
The Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club quad bike also was picked up like a toy in last Sunday's sudden, ferocious storm and hurled 30 metres along the sand.
The motorised bike's safety and shade frame remained bent out of shape when Santa climbed aboard yesterday to deliver Christmas lollies to children on the beach.
The mini-tornado lifted lifesavers' plastic chairs off the sand and held them swirling high above the ground. It damaged rescue boards, a radio and first aid boxes and blew in windows at the clubhouse.
Club president Chris Annand said the storm lasted only a few minutes, but he has never seen anything like it and hopes he never will again.
"I've been a (TH & C) member since 1973 and I've never in my life seen anything like that," Chris said.
"It was an absolute freak of nature.
"The beach looked like a disaster area. The (patrol shelter) was lifted right off the ground, tipped upside down and dropped on its roof.
"Kids were crying and lying on the ground."
Chris said the fast-moving mini-tornado appeared to follow the Tweed River from Mt Warning and then head out to sea before it turned around and aimed directly at Greenmount about 2.40pm (Qld).
Surf Life Saving Queensland's command base at Burleigh radioed shortly before the storm struck for the Greenmount patrollers to take down beach flags and close the beach.
About a dozen swimmers were still on the beach, but the eight lifesavers in the patrol shelter less than 100 metres from Greenmount bluff were hit hard.
Three of the lifesavers were on their first-ever patrol, including a mature-aged female triathlete who is still nursing a very sore head after she was struck by a galvanised metal bar inside the shelter.
A 17-year-old male Brisbane member of the club has a broken collarbone and two younger girls also in the shelter were in shock, unable to speak after their sudden, terrifying ordeal.
The vicious storm mowed down trees and undergrowth as it flew up the side of the bluff.
Chris said he was relieved the storm injuries were not more serious, but the Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club was now forced to raise extra funds to replace and repair equipment.