1954 flood Lismore.
1954 flood Lismore. The Northern Star Archives

Looking back: the cyclones that threatened our region

IT'S not common for a cyclone to threaten the Northern Rivers.

But when Tropical Cyclone Oma looked like it could do just that this week, it wasn't the first time.

As a severe weather warning remains in place for the North Coast from the Queensland border to Coffs Harbour, damaging winds, abnormally high tides and damaging surf are still expected to batter the region.

TC Oma was been downgraded to Category 1, and has already whipped up significant wind and surfs.

Cyclones have also wreaked devastation in the past, and well before ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit in 2017.



IT CAME before cyclones had names, and it wreaked havoc on the region.

Tropical Cyclone 195303 - which came before the weather bureau named cyclones alphabetically - formed near the Coral Sea, 1800km from the Australian coast in early 1954.

On February 16, the storm moved away from Vanuatu and toward Queensland.

It tore along much of the Queensland coast before torrential rain and damaging winds hit the Far North Coast on February 19.

The winds exceeded 120km/h and the cyclone made landfall at Tweed Heads late on Saturday, February 20.

The cyclone was still active when it reached the Border Ranges north of Kyogle and dumped a huge deluge on the Richmond River catchment.

Whian Whian had 430mm in 24 hours, while Doon Doon received more than 800mm in the 48 hours from February 19 to February 21.

A total of 235mm fell in Afterlee on the Saturday night alone.


"Shock flood could be worst ever": this was the front page headline heralding the disaster that struck Lismore in March, 1974.

On March 11, The Northern Star reported the Richmond River's predicted peak was a little more than 13 metres, "slightly higher than the record 1954 flood".

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Tropical Cyclone Zoe - which lasted from March 6 to 13 - crossed the coast at Coolangatta before moving back out to sea.

Flooding was extensive, with 500 families evacuated in Lismore and 200 people evacuated in Murwillumbah.

Landslides cut the main railway line in four places between Casino and Coffs Harbour.

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