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Upcoming cyclone season – will it be busy or not?

I’ve just returned from a much-needed break over in Australia – Queensland to be precise, my first time there. The weather was typically Queensland, hot and humid, sunny then thunderstorms.

While the thunderstorms were severe, killing one person in Brisbane after severe gales blew a tree over a car out of the blue one afternoon, it was the damage left over from the flooding earlier this year that was most noticeable.

Brisbane is back to normal; the city looks clean, the river has left almost no clues to its near-record height at the start of this year. The only hint we saw of a flood was some debris still stuck up a tree in the CBD.

But, once you go inland, it’s a different story. We drove to the picturesque village of Montville, but the direct route was cut off by a dramatic landslide. A rather long detour around it showed flood damage from earlier in the year. Many roads are damaged and Queensland is a huge state – road workers were everywhere.

So the cyclone season forecast released by the Australian forecaster BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) this week won’t be something locals will be happy about.

They are predicting more cyclones than average this summer for Queensland.

Back home in New Zealand and Niwa has a slightly different prediction for us. While they also suggest Queensland is in for more cyclone activity, they note that the type of La Nina that has formed will spare New Zealand from the same very active season we had last summer. They are predicting average to below average cyclone numbers for us.

“On average, nine named tropical cyclones occur in the southwest … each season (November-April). The forecast indicates that five to eight named cyclones are expected for the November 2011-April 2012 season,” said Niwa this week.

But remember it takes only one storm to cause significant damage. Cyclone Wilma alone cost New Zealand $25 million and that was a fast-moving storm that minimised flood damage. Now is the time to get prepared for the upcoming cyclone season if you live in the top half of the North Island – so why not sort out that survival kit today if you haven’t already done so. It will give you something to do during the long, anxious wait until 9 o’clock tonight. Go the All Blacks!!

– Philip Duncan writes a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday


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