By SAMANTHA HEALY
CYCLONES pose a very real threat to the thousands of families living on the Tweed Coast, with a weather expert predicting we could face a larger natural disaster than the famous 1954 cyclone.
Renowned Queensland meteorologist Jeff Callaghan has warned the Tweed not to become complacent when it comes to cyclones.
Addressing storm chasers from across the nation at the Australian Severe Weather Association Conference in Brisbane, Mr Callaghan said it was only a matter of time before another severe weather event impacted our region.
"Undoubtedly we will start to see an increase in cyclones further south," Mr Callaghan of the Queensland Severe Weather Section of the Bureau of Meteorology.
"Everywhere on the east coast is vulnerable even Sydney.
"Past cyclones like the one in 1954 that hit that region (Coolangatta/Tweed) would have a huge impact today."
On February 20, 1954 the eye of a cyclone crossed the coast at Coolangatta and was known as the "worst storm in living memory" for nearly 20 years.
Widespread damage was reported from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney.
The Tweed experienced devastating floods, houses were blown apart in Cudgen, trees over one meter in diameter were twisted out of the ground and 26 people died.
Today, according to Mr Callaghan, the results a cyclone of the same magnitude would be devastating.
"It would be an unbelievably dangerous event today," he said.
"It would be hard to model the effects of a cyclone like the 1954 cyclone.
He said the population explosion on the Tweed Coast since the 1954 cyclone and the combination of coast and river development would affect the levels of destruction should a "perfect storm" once again hit our coast.
"If the sea surface temperature is warm in southoern waters, cyclones can move further south," Mr Callaghan said.
"The size and the speed of a cyclone can also affect how much damage there is.
"Cyclone Larry while very intense moved quickly with a lot of wind damage but not much flooding and no deaths.
"A large, slower moving system like any number of those that have it the south coast can result in death from drowning.
"Anyone living near the river or the coast would be susceptible to storm surge or fresh water flooding."
Discussing the likelihood of an intense cyclone this year, Mr Callaghan said it was hard to predict this early on.
"We've had a few intense cyclones in the north in recent times, suggesting we may be moving in to an active cyclonic phase," he said.
"There is no real evidence as to what may happen this season, but at present it doesn't look to bad," he said.
Official cyclone outlooks for the 2006/07 season are due around November 2006 and will be issued by the Bureau of Meteorology.