The 1985 Brisbane hail storm had a huge impact on the city and its people, although for David Farrenden it was the start of a lifelong passion.
While many Tamworth locals might not recognise the name or the face, Mr Farrenden has become the go to for live weather reports, forecasts and information as founder of the Tamworth & Region Weather Facebook page, which has more than 20,000 local followers.
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“I will never forget that storm in 1985 – day turned to night in less than half an hour and it seemed to form out of nowhere,” Mr Farrenden said.
“After that I decided to sit on the range and watch them roll in whenever I could, then I met some other people interested in it and started learning about it and became a storm chaser for a while.
“A lot like to go into storms but I think the beauty is being on the outside and watching it form and roll in – they are natural wonders and no two storms are the same.”
Mr Farrenden moved south to Gunnedah in the early 90s, and then to Tamworth near the turn of the century, where he lives with his wife Diane, who “puts up with a lot.”
“Diane is a lovely woman that puts up with me, but I think deep down she loves it,” he said.
Diane was one of the people who pushed Mr Farrenden to start the Facebook page after a shock weather event in 2012.
“There was a huge hail storm that hit Tamworth hard and there were no warnings issued from the Bureau of Meteorology which really wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“My friends kept saying why don’t you do something about it, so I started the page with just my friends an family following me.”
Fairly soon and with the help of a few more weather events that soon changed, and his page has been going gangbusters ever since.
“In 2015 I went up into the snow at Hanging Rock and did a warning and get 1000 followers in one day, by the end of 2015 I had 5000, and then got another 5000 in 2016 and now we have 20,000,” he said.
“When people realise you are doing a good job they are grateful, but I don’t do it for the notoriety I do it for the community – they deserve better than what the BoM offers these days.”
Just last week Mr Farrenden was instrumental in the BoM realising that the data being recorded by the automated weather station in Tamworth was incorrect.
Mr Farrenden and his team of four volunteer administrators spread around the region use a variety of global modelling programs for their forecasts, that he believes give a much more accurate insight.
These days he always underestimates rain fall to a small degree, “because he doesn’t want to disappoint country people who won’t mind if they get a bit more than forecast.”
Unfortunately Mr Farrenden can’t see much rain on the horizon for Tamworth, and has even predicted that 2018 will be the driest on record, with less than the 248.8mm that fell in 1994.
While even he hopes he is wrong, when it does finally happen there will be thousands of locals turning to Tamworth & Region Weather to get the full report.