A photo of Tuesday’s storm at Grafton sent in by Mark Burridge.
A photo of Tuesday’s storm at Grafton sent in by Mark Burridge.

There could be worse storms yet

A STORM described as a “tornado” by people who experienced its fury lashed parts of the Clarence Valley on Wednesday night, the fourth storm in as many days.

Daily Examiner media sales consultant Kelly Price said extreme winds and intense rain lashed her Seelands home. She said 5.1cm of rain fell in a 20-minute period.

“It was basically vertical rain ... it was coming down in two directions at once due to the strong wind,” she said.

“The wind was unbelievable; it blew the rain in under the tracks of the sliding windows in my house, flooding almost half the house.

“The wind was that strong that the barbecue, and it is quite big, was blown off the veranda.”

Yesterday morning on her way to work, she said the damage caused where the storm cut a swathe through Seelands was clearly evident.

“It made a huge mess ... there were branches and leaves and bits of trees everywhere,” she said.

“I haven’t experienced a storm like that since I was a kid.”

Mrs Price’s reflection on her storm experience as a child correlates with the views of Broken Head academic Dr Peter Helman.

After studying the coast and climate for more than a decade, he warns a storm with the potential to devastate coastal communities could happen soon.

Dr Helman, who has compiled a database of severe storms on Australia’s east coast over the past 200 years, said weather patterns were cyclic.

According to his research, weather cycles usually lasted 20 to 30 years and could generally be categorised as either hot and dry or wet and stormy.

He said the east coast re-entered a wet and stormy cycle in 2006, but this time around, with sea level rise and already-eroded dunes, there was potential for even more damage.

Dr Helman said a storm like the disastrous 1974 cyclone, that lashed the east coast, could mean up to 300 houses being lost between South-East Queensland and Sydney. And the “big one” could happen as early as this year.

“Before winter, we could well have a severe east coast low, which is a very common pattern in storm history. I could give you 20 storm years that had followed that pattern.”

Essential Energy community relations manager Mike Hely said safety measures had prevented any lightning strikes from causing major damage to the electricity network in the Clarence.

“There have been about half-a-dozen isolated incidents over the last few days where lightning has struck and caused a fuse to blow,” he said.

“We have got off quite lightly considering the amount of lightning around in the past few days.”

A spokesperson from the Coffs Harbour office of the Bureau of Meteorology said there had been 191 lightning strikes recorded at Coffs Harbour in three days in March and 701 in February.

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