A motorist who drove into a "mini-tornado" during a storm in Far North Queensland said he was forced to squeeze through a 30-centimetre gap in the door to escape after two tall trees fell on his vehicle.
Eric Auld was driving on the Gillies Highway to Yungaburra at about 4:30pm on Sunday when a storm hit without warning.
"There was just light rain pretty much, until I got about 2 kilometres from Yungaburra, then all of a sudden I just ran into this mini tornado," he said.
"I slowed down to pull up on the side of the road and, just as I was about to pull up, two trees came crashing down across the road
"Me and my car were engulfed underneath these trees — it pinned the car to the highway.
"You could hardly see out the windscreen, hence why I pulled up, but obviously pulled up in the wrong spot."
Mr Auld was shaken but unhurt, however he struggled to get out of his vehicle.
"None of the doors would open because there were just branches all around," he said.
"Eventually, I managed to move a branch through my driver's side window and got the door open about 30cm, which was enough for me to slide out and scramble through all the branches to safety.
"[I] got out and had to stand in the blizzard rain for about 15 minutes, but luckily other motorists behind me had called emergency services and they were on the scene relatively quickly to help me.
"I saw the RACQ truck taking my car back to Malanda and it looked a pretty sad state of affairs; [it was] crunched."
The highway was closed for about 10 hours while the debris was cleared.
Severe weather in south-east
The Bureau of Meteorology said the storm was linked to severe weather in south-east Queensland, which cut power to 33,000 homes during the weekend.
Senior forecaster Kimba Wong said it was partly due to a surface trough running from the Gulf Country to the south-east of the state.
"Just to the east and north of that surface trough we've got quite a moist and unstable airmass that's helping to give us that shower and thunderstorm activity over the last few days," she said.
"We had some reports of wind damage with trees down at Yungaburra and also some 2cm-diametre hail.
"We've certainly had some wild weather making its way into the tropics."
She said there was still the chance of some shower and thunderstorm activity, particularly across inland parts of the North Tropical Coast and Tablelands over the next couple of days.
A 38-year-old Cairns woman was killed when a tree fell on her car on the Gillies Highway at the nearby Gadgarra last year.
Mr Auld described his experience as "very, very scary" but said he felt very fortunate to be alive.
"All I could think about was other people who've come to grief on the Gillies [Highway] over the years with trees falling on their vehicles," he said.
"I'd always thought about that and how unlucky those people were, but I was just so lucky to walk away."ABC