WESTERN Australian truck driver George Morseu feared his partner Robyn Kennedy and their four young children Myhtia, 6, Lachlan, 5, Karhys, 3, and Marliah, 2, would die when a mini tornado and freak storm hit the Townsville suburb of Vincent.
GEORGE drives a 793c Caterpillar dump truck and works for Fortescue Mining Company on a week on and week off basis at the Cloud Beach Mine near Perth.
"I was preparing to go back to work by plane that day but put if off for a while. We thought we were all going to die," he told Big Rigs hours after.
Winds around 110km per hour ensured plenty of damage to trees and infrastructure when the tornado struck about 5.10am on March 20.
The damage bill is more than $20 million leaving debris over a wide area, some roofs missing, power lines down and fallen trees everywhere.
Hundreds of trucks were needed in the aftermath including some from the Army as the clean up took place.
The tornado started near Magnetic Island and then blew across the Townsville suburbs of Garbutt, Pimlico, Aitkenvale and Vincent where the Morseu family reside.
The storm path was 500m wide and 2km long and was formed by southward movement of a low pressure trough across Townsville from the north.
To add to the problems, about 150mm of rain fell in the 24-hour period until 9am on the day.
Winds last only about 10 minutes but caused devastation and ensured many families were in fear.
The mini tornado received national publicity on radio and television and this writer received numerous calls about it including one from a Bicheno truckie in far off Tasmania.
Emergency Services responded to reports of 30 damaged houses and some lost their roofs.
By 7am, the SES had received 38 calls for assistance in Townsville.
Police closed off Beattie St to enable SES and council workers to start the huge clean up.
Big Rigs travelled around the affected suburbs and saw trucks involved in numerous parts of the clean up.
Roads around Townsville were severely potholed and we saw council maintenance workers Jason Doolan, Dale Cartwright and Willie Tonuia placing bitumen in many along Leopold St in Aitkenvale.
"It was very severe the storm and we have lots of work to do," Jason said.
The area was declared a natural disaster zone and emergency relief funding was activated, which provides cash payments to affected families and individuals. The army was brought in to help clean up the area.