We had spent a glorious hour swimming and lazing in the sun at Little Roaring Beach before it was time for me to pack the car and head home. As we said goodbye, David commented that it smelled like rain and we could see the clouds coming across. We both noticed that, despite it being 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the sky was so black over the mountains that a distant bushfire glowed a brilliant red as if it were night time.
As I drove off a couple of spots dotted the windscreen but I was happy and feeling carefree after a wonderful weekend, thinking it would be nice to have some rain for our dry gardens.
The drive out of Dover is quite English, with pretty gardens giving way to green fields and rolling hills. From a still mostly sunny vantage point I could see a band of heavy rain moving fast across the valley I was coming up to and felt a frisson of worry at the speed of its passage. Oddly, as I drove down the slope, I could see debris on the road ahead and thought a trailer must have lost some mulch. However, only seconds later, I looked toward the sea and understood what was happening.
It still makes me shudder to think of the next hour. The glimpse I had through the trees, of the sea ahead and to my right was like nothing I had ever seen before; it had literally been picked up and thrown forward by winds later described on the news as a violent storm (103 – 117km/h). I thought at the time that I would stop at the next vantage point and take a photo but moments later the storm hit me, together with the torrential rain and the debris from the trees lining the road.
The forest bent to almost touch the road and I was terrified of branches falling from the gum trees and killing me. Cars approached from the other direction, all of us creeping along, trying to see through the torrential rain lashing our windscreens. I was looking for a safe place, away from the trees, to stop and wait for the worst of the storm to pass as more and more debris littered the road. I would come to a clear area, only to find I was on top of a hill where the wind was even more terrifying, so on I crept again.
Briefly I glimpsed a boat sailing, surrounded by violent, white seas, with another wave of water and wind about to hit it, and I hoped they were able to get to safety. I still wonder how they managed but have not heard any news of deaths at sea, on the news. However, a young man died when a tree landed on his car and I am just so grateful I got through safely.
At Port Huon the world was totally white, rain and sea lashed into foaming sheets. Because of the angle of the bay, the wind was coming almost directly from behind me and I decided this was where I would stop. I pulled off the road in a clear area and turned off the car, feeling the battering of the storm raging around me and unable to see anything through the windscreen because of the torrential rain. Suddenly there was an almighty crack of thunder. Lightening seemed to surround my car and once again I was scared to death of staying still so I started the car and drove on. The whole world around me was white with water; rain, an angry sea and lightening and it was hard to see the road.
I stopped another twice, after dodging fallen branches, feeling debris landing on my car and being hit time after time by violent walls of wind and rain. Eventually it started to recede to a safe level but I remember thinking that what I now thought of as “safe”, I previously would have called “wild”!
At Cradoc, just a few kilometres from home, a tree lay across the road and 2 damaged cars could be seen poking out from the branches. The passengers and drivers were ok and had started to direct the traffic around the mess.
I drove into my long driveway in serene sunshine, never being so pleased to arrive at a destination. I had been concentrating so hard on driving slowly and avoiding all the debris on the road that it was only when I came inside that I began to shake a little and the experience overwhelmed me, causing me to rush to the kitchen and make coffee!
I wish I had photos of the effects of the storm on the water because no-one would believe they were real. I cannot imagine the horror people must feel when worse storms than this destroy their homes, their towns and the lives of those they cherish.
You can watch a news report about some of it on the ABC here, but no-one seems to have captured the actual storm.