‘HARROWING’: Tornado chaser’s close call at Rappville fire
AS RAGING bushfires spread across parts of Northern NSW in October, emergency services urged residents to evacuate, or find immediate shelter.
But storm chaser Justin Noonan instead headed towards the fires, and spent about four hours in the area observing the blaze take over masses of bushland.
The Banora Point man has seen some of the strongest and largest tornadoes on the planet, but said the Rappville fires were one of the scariest weather phenomena he had ever chased.
"It was really quite was harrowing standing there watching something that no matter what you try and do, there is no stopping that. It's Mother Nature taking its course and how quickly it was moving and the wind speeds and it was quite a sight to behold.
"It was probably one of the rare times where I thought, 'I can't really get close to this because this is something that I really can't mess around with, it could come and get me very quickly'.
"At one stage I got to where the firefront was crossing the road but I didn't actually realise I was that close to it ... I quickly jumped out to check to the western area just to make sure there was no fire coming directly at me. And when I went back down the road, a big fireball went through the trees and it was time to get out of there very quickly."
He said he ran into some police officers who urged him to move on which he quickly heeded. As for safety precautions at the fire - he just tried to stay out of harm's way as much as he could.
On chases he takes a first aid kit in the case he is the first on the scene if someone needs help.
Mr Noonan grew up having a passion and fascination for weather, and combining that with his adrenaline junkie side he was naturally drawn to storm chasing.
"I love how Mother Nature can make us feel so small and insignificant. It makes you feel alive ... it's the best best show on the planet."
But he said he has received negative feedback regarding his passion.
"A lot of people think you're putting yourself in harm's way and emergency services. However, at the same time, what I do is also help out with a lot of warnings, because we're spotters for the Bureau of Meteorology.
"So why you can kind of get a bit of bad rap ... I'm reporting back is actually going to save their property down the track if they can have enough time to prepare for."
Visit Storm Chaser Justin Noonan Facebook for videos and weather forecasts.