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Cyclone season is running late, but may still hit hard

By Mark Beale

WITH Cyclone Ola now downgraded to a tropical low, the Queensland coast is still waiting for the first serious storm of the season.

Two years ago yesterday, Cyclone Jasmine developed off the Queensland coast, and that was the last time the season’s first cyclone developed this late in the season.

But delving back in the history books, it would appear late cyclones aren’t uncommon for the Gladstone region.

A Bureau of Meteorology spokesperson said cyclones affecting Gladstone historically formed in February or March – closer to the end of the season, which runs from November 1 to April 30.

“This would probably be due to the fact that having a cyclone that far south, sea surface temperatures would need to be sufficiently warm enough to foster cyclone development or at the least cyclone continuation,” the spokesperson said.

“Usually the first tropical cyclone develops in the Queensland region around January, but they can form as early as November given the right conditions.

“But this is certainly a very late beginning to the cyclone season in the Queensland region.”

Winds picked up in Gladstone yesterday afternoon as the tropical low, formerly Cyclone Ola, moved closer to the coast.

The system is expected to continue weakening as it travels south with strong wind warnings in place for the coastal areas south of Fraser Island.

This year the bureau is predicting four tropical cyclones in Queensland, leaving just over two months for the storms to develop.

Last year four cyclones were detected in the country’s eastern region, but so far Ola has been the closest Queensland has come to its first cyclone this wet season.

One died in Gladstone as 1949 cyclone hit town

BRIAN Norris was 17 and an apprentice butcher when a cyclone started to bear down on Gladstone in 1949.

It came closest to the town at 2pm on March 2 but Mr Norris said it was apparent much earlier in the day conditions were going to get dangerous.

“We had gone out onto a farmer’s property to butcher some pigs,” Mr Norris said.

“It was about 9am and as we were standing there I saw some large gum trees being blown down by the wind.

“I pointed it out to my boss.

“And I’ve never seen anyone kill, gut and throw a pig onto the back of a truck so fast.”

Winds reached 120kmh as the cyclone moved over Gladstone.

Mr Norris said the wind was so fierce the sound of it howling through the streets is etched into his memory and the sight of a 14m boat resting where CQUniversity campus stands today was unforgettable.

“It was blown off its moorings and there wasn’t another tide big enough to free it,” he said.

“They paid two men to dig trenches all the way around it and waited for a tide big enough to get it back out to sea.”

When the eye of the storm struck schools were closed, the harbour shut down and water was lapping at the railway line, near Mr Norris’s house on Auckland St.

The shops on Goondoon St were closed and Mr Norris watched as the glass windows flexed in the raging wind before succumbing and smashing in.

“There were two guys with their pushbikes pedalling down the hill, then turning around and letting the wind push them back up,” he said.

Taxi drivers wouldn’t go further south than Pier St and 2m waves rose from the mouth of the creek.

“That’s definitely the storm that sticks in my mind. I was only 17 and it sure was an experience to live through.”

One man died in Gladstone after being blown from a roof while trying to make repairs.

Two died in Rockhampton, a child in Bundaberg was killed by a falling tree, and two men drowned in Central Queensland.

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