Weather Systems: Storms over Brisbane

Words by Tom Plevey

Pictures by Chloe Hume Col McElwaine

Published on May 28, 2014

There’s a rite of passage every Brisbane resident experiences and comes to cherish: storm season. The short, violent outbursts of monsoon. The meteorological drama unfolding above the sleepiest of cities. Spend enough time in Brisbane and you’re going to end up — sometime in November — with your fingers woven around a mug of tea on the verandah of a fading Queenslander, watching the fat cumulonimbus roll in and unleash hell, cleansing the sweaty city.

There’s a pagan fervour to a Brisbanite’s love of their storms. Part awe, part love, part terror — the worship of a force of nature. There’s ritual to it. Each day there are those who study the Bureau of Meteorology website, looking for omens in the entrails of the weather radar feeds. Sometimes, the BOM has marked these readings themselves, circling blots of red with a warning: ‘This storm is very dangerous!‘ Scouts in the Scenic Rim and Toowoomba post pictures of the storm fronts marching in. We wonder and fear the show that the weather gods will bring, but the anticipation is half the fun.

For the rural part of me, the boy who grew up out west through one of the worst droughts in history, there’s a sinful decadence to a storm over Brisbane. The luxury of wasted rain thrown away on the concrete and steel of a city that grows no crops, waters no livestock. To watch it all flow down gutters into a river that has never run dry.

But for the urbanite within me, there’s the thrill of being brought back to the natural world. Surrounded by the artifice of a big city, there’s that primal feeling of being grabbed by the brainstem and reminded of Mother Nature. We go giddy for it — the thrill, the chill, the darkness in the afternoon of a day that was so bright an hour before.

You grab that cup of tea and a seat on the verandah, just safe enough from the danger but still, technically, outside. You listen to the hiss of the driven rain, the snap of it on the roof, and grin like an idiot at the lightning while thunder rattles the windows.

The storms are violent, but fleeting. In an hour or two they’re over. You venture outside, surveying the damage. Already you miss it. But there’ll be another. Probably same time tomorrow.


Tom Plevey is a QUT Creative Writing graduate who is stuck in the interstitial zone between city and country. He doesn’t do quirky.

Col McElwaine is a Brisbane-based designer and illustrator who thinks a washing net would be a great idea.

Chloe Hume is a Brisbane-based producer who thinks making movies and pouring coffee is a neat way to get by.