‘Parts of city underwater’: Coast overdue for cyclone
THE severe bushfires that have devastated parts of the hinterland are not the only extreme weather event Gold Coasters should be worried about, a leading weather-warning company says.
ASX-listed Aeeris has analysed extreme weather patterns dating back to the mid-19th century and believes the Glitter Strip is overdue for a direct hit by a category 3 cyclone, which it believes would leave large parts of the city underwater.
The last one to hit the city was in 1954 - referred to as the Great Gold Coast Cyclone. It caused massive flooding and evacuations at Macintosh Island.
Cars were picked up by 2m of water brought by waves on to the highway at Kirra, and the entire Byron Bay fishing fleet of 22 boats and the outer section of the jetty were swept away.
Aeeris founder and managing director Kerry Plowright said the collective memory is short and people forget that historically extreme weather events occurred with great frequency until modern times.
"These fires raging now are a great example," he said.
"Fires are not exactly unknown to Queensland. Most of Queensland used to be rainforest and a lot has disappeared. There were very significant fires in 1951 and 1953 but there weren't many people living here.
"It gets forgotten and it goes to the heart of this story, which is these things have a bad habit of revisiting us."
Aeeris has used Bureau of Meteorology archives, newspaper accounts and anecdotal information to map cyclones that have hit the Australian east coast since 1858.
Mr Plowright said cyclones hit the southeast corner, often affecting the Gold Coast and Tweed regions, in great number during the late 19th century.
In April 1892 a tropical cyclone "recurved" (changed direction) over Brisbane and caused trees to be blown down, roofs to be blown off and windows at the Southport Hotel were smashed by severe south-easterly winds, the Aeeris report says.
At Tweed Heads two hotels and the police station were badly damaged.
The 1954 cyclone crossed the Coast at Coolangatta and caused widespread structural damage on the Gold Coast.
Mr Plowright said the effect would be far more damaging today.
"Large parts of the Gold Coast would go underwater, certainly a lot of the canal estates. If that came through today that would be catastrophic."
Mr Plowright said it had been 65 years since the Gold Coast was hit by a category 3 cyclone.
"Going back further in the southeast corner there were cyclones every five years for a period.
"We have had a drought of cyclones and weather has a tendency to catch up. When you suddenly have a dry period, all of a sudden the opposite comes along."
Aeeris senior meteorologist Anthony Cornelius said there was reasonable evidence to point towards the Gold Coast being overdue for a direct hit by a cyclone.
"We have had a few close calls in the past," he said.
"Even if you say you had a few in the late 1800s and another in 1954 … and the best case scenario is an average of one every 50 years, well 1954 is nearly 70 years ago.
"But I think the hit rate is higher than a one-in-every-50-year event."