FARMER'S AGONY

Whole crops dec­i­mated as tor­nado-like storm tears through prop­er­ties days be­fore har­vest

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BLAKE ANTROBUS blake.antrobus@fraser­coastchron­i­cle.com.au

YEARS of hard work have been de­stroyed in min­utes as a mon­ster storm pack­ing tor­nado-like winds tore through farms west of Mary­bor­ough.

At Yen­garie, Steve Miller lost whole pineap­ple, av­o­cado, ba­nana and sugar cane crops.

It’s a dev­as­tat­ing blow for the farmer who has not only lost the equiv­a­lent of two years’ in­come but also the sea­son’s profits he planned to use for his wed­ding.

STEVE Miller was hop­ing to use the in­come from the har­vest of his pineap­ple crops to pay for his up­com­ing wed­ding.

But in a flash of rain, light­ning and hail, his en­tire farm was de­stroyed.

The man­ager of the Golden Pines farm in Yen­garie was dev­as­tated to find thou­sands of pineap­ples and avo­ca­dos, which he spent years plant­ing and cul­ti­vat­ing, de­stroyed in the tor­nado-like storm that dec­i­mated much of Mary­bor­ough West on Thurs­day.

Mr Miller’s prop­erty was among the worst hit.

His av­o­cado or­chard, teem­ing with fresh, green avo­ca­dos only days ago, was stripped bare from heavy winds and hail.

Thou­sands of pineap­ples were dam­aged and sugar cane plan­ta­tions were ripped out by the roots.

Ly­chee and ba­nana trees on the prop­erty were also bat­tered.

But Mr Miller’s heart­break is com­pounded by the fact they were go­ing to har­vest next week, with the dam­age now caus­ing them to go with­out two years’ worth of in­come.

“We had the best crop of young avo­ca­dos for the next sea­son out there, and they’re all gone,” Mr Miller said.

“That’s a cou­ple of hun­dred thou­sand dollars just gone.

“And we have no crop in­sur­ance to cover it all.”

It will take Mr Miller and his part­ner Ra­mona Wa­ters as long as two years un­til an­other crop will be har­vested off the farm.

Mr Miller told the Chron­i­cle he was hop­ing the in­come from the har­vest would cover the cost of their mar­riage.

“It takes up to two years to grow a pineap­ple. All that hard work is just gone in a night,” he said.”

“I re­mem­ber watch­ing the com­puter and think­ing to my­self ‘Oh no, the Novem­ber har­vest will be gone’.

“Then it came down and there was noth­ing I could do at that point.

“It was a mas­sacre.” Thank­fully, Mr Miller said no one in his fam­ily was in­jured and no pets were lost dur­ing the storm.

The pair now face the task of start­ing their har­vest again and re­pair­ing the dam­age to their prop­erty.

“It’s heart­break­ing to see the farm like this,” Ms Wa­ters said.

Trees were felled and power cut to tens of thou­sands of homes across the re­gion as tor­nado-like con­di­tions lashed the Wide Bay on Thurs­day.

Homes along Gayn­dah Rd in Mary­bor­ough West were among those hit hard­est as win­dows were smashed and roofs torn off.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy has fore­cast more storms over the com­ing days, with strong wind warn­ings in place un­til at least to­mor­row.

Mary­bor­ough Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Craig Hawkins said Emer­gency Ser­vices were work­ing with the Fraser Coast Re­gional Coun­cil dur­ing the storm re­cov­ery.

He said the storm had moved just south of Her­vey Bay and no sig­nif­i­cant is­sues had de­vel­oped in the area.

“It is not unique to the Fraser Coast area but the im­por­tant thing is that peo­ple of this area need to ex­pect it,” Supt Hawkins said.

“What’s im­por­tant at this point in time is that we don’t get com­pla­cent, and se­condly that peo­ple heed the warn­ings peo­ple are out there.

“If roads are flooded, don’t

ven­ture into it – not only are you putting your­selves at risk but you are putting at risk other peo­ple who are com­ing to your aid that may not nec­es­sar­ily get to you.”

Supt Hawkins said there might be events of a sim­i­lar na­ture that could oc­cur over the next day and it was likely that some power con­nec­tions would be lost again.

WIPED OUT: Yen­garie farmer Steve Miller among the re­mains of his ly­chee trees, (above cen­tre) his dam­aged sheds, (above right) branches dam­age a house on Mary­bor­ough Biggen­den Rd, Mary­bor­ough West. Trees were up­rooted and dam­aged fenc­ing on Old Mill Road at Yen­garie, (above cen­tre) vol­un­teer Rhys Jack­son (left) helps at Zane Haas’s prop­erty at Oakhurst, (above right) dam­age to a house.

Pho­tos: Alis­tair Bright­man

STRIPPED BARE: Steve Miller among the av­o­cado trees de­nuded by hail and wind.

De­bris lit­ters Old Mill Road at Yen­garie.

Traf­fic builds up along Mary­bor­ough Biggen­den Road as work­ers re­move fallen trees at Copen­hagen Bend.

The clean up along Mary­bor­ough Biggen­den Rd at Mary­bor­ough West.

Rhys Jack­son helps clean up af­ter the storm.

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