HOLIDAY campers were struck with disaster when a super cell storm hit Leslie Dam at 4.40pm on New Year's Eve, demolishing camp sites with winds in excess of 110km/h.
Campers said the storm came out of nowhere, and within 30 seconds they were surrounded by violent winds, torrential rain, hail the size of 20-cent pieces and ankle-deep flash flooding that ripped through tents and tarps, causing widespread destruction and injury.
Gold Coast resident Adam Szlezak was camping with his wife and five-year-old son when the storm bombarded their site at the Lake Leslie Tourist Park.
"I rushed out to put down the awning on our tent and the wind literally lifted me - an 85kg man - off the ground," Dr Szelzak said.
The two parents feared for their five-year-old son, who was playing outside when the storm struck.
"I could hear him screaming and luckily he ran into the neighbour's camper van for shelter," Dr Siri Szlezak said.
"The whole camper van was shaking and it felt like it was going to tip over."
A teenage girl was rushed to Warwick Hospital when a large eucalyptus tree fell on her tent, pinning her down.
The girl is being treated for injuries to her arm and is said to have suffered ligament damage.
But those most at risk were in the middle of the lake when the storm swooped in.
Paige Dewitt was among four first-time campers from Brisbane who were in a ski boat when the water turned rough, whipping up 1.5m waves on the lake, which is normally known for its tranquillity.
"It was completely terrifying," Ms Dewitt said.
"We were out there on the water and we couldn't see a thing.
"There was rain coming from all directions and we just had no idea where we were."
Boat driver Jon Fleming said he had to keep the motor running and the revs up so the low-lying ski boat wouldn't sink as it took on buckets of water.
"I couldn't see where I was going at all and we were worried we would hit the rocks," Mr Fleming said.
The storm lasted about 20 minutes, but for those on the water it felt like a lifetime.
Campers back on land didn't fare much better in the bad weather.
Tents, awnings, gazebos and equipment were torn, tossed and strewn across both major camp sites at Leslie Dam.
Witnesses said the sudden onset of the storm was what made it so destructive - leaving no one with any time to prepare.
Once the weather had eased, many campers were left with no option but to pack up and leave early, all their equipment ravaged.
Rubbish and debris are still strewn across the camp sites and Southern Downs Mayor Tracie Dobie said council staff will begin cleaning up today.
Cr Dobie said there was a higher risk of storms in summer and urged campers to be cautious and alert.
A super cell storm is caused by a rotating updraught and is the least common type of storm, according to the national weather service.
"If you're out camping, check the radars, tie down your equipment and do the best you can in these conditions," Cr Dobie said.
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