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Storm chaser warns of big storm season

STORM FRONT: On the brink of an above average storm season, people have been warned not to be too complacent about warnings.
STORM FRONT: On the brink of an above average storm season, people have been warned not to be too complacent about warnings. Contributed

A MONTVILLE man who chases storms for a living has warned that complacency is people's worst enemy as an above average storm season looms.

Jeff Higgins, who runs Higgins Storm Chasing, has been nearly struck by lightning, has been in a car lifted on two wheels during a storm, and has been washed off the road in flood waters.

He said survival during a cyclone or storm could sometimes come down to preparedness and education.

Higgins Storm Chasing has forecast 13 cyclones and 18 tropical lows for Australia this season.

Five of those predicted cyclones have been forecast for the eastern region around Queensland, two possibly crossing the coastline and two possibly category two or above.

RELATED: BOM warns of 'more active' cyclone season

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned residents should start preparing for a return to a more active tropical cyclone season in 2016-17.

The Bureau released its cyclone outlook and climate prediction, and services manager Dr Andrew Watkins said Australians should expect an average to above-average tropical cyclone season, due to neutral to weak La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Mr Higgins said there was no doubt a severe thunderstorm would hit somewhere in south-east Queensland this summer, posing the threat of injury or damage to property.

"There will be flooding, there will be large hail, there will be people who could possibly lose their lives but the better educated we are, the better the chances of getting through without coming to any harm," Mr Higgins said.

Jeff Higgins, of Higgins Storm Chasing, with camera at the ready as storm clouds loom.
Jeff Higgins, of Higgins Storm Chasing, with camera at the ready as storm clouds loom. Higgins Storm Chasing

Mr Higgins said he did not take unnecessary risks in trying to observe and photograph storms but predictions were only accurate within 100km and he had sometimes unavoidably experienced more of nature's fury than expected.

"I've been battered by tennis ball-sized hail, I've been in a car that's been lifted on two wheels by the wind, lifted up three times," he said.

"There's also the risk of flash flooding. It can go from nothing to a metre over a road in 30 minutes and there's the risk of being washed away."

"And then there's the lightning. I've been struck indirectly once. I was sitting in the middle of the car videoing. I had a window half down and it was just like a hard clap and an electrical tentacle came through the window and zapped my arm. It made my fingers rule like an electric fence strike."

RELATED: Time to prepare for storms, and prepare to help

Mr Higgins said it was important for people to take note of storm warnings and hints for being prepared at this time of year.

"We've just gone through nine months without any cyclone threats or thunderstorms. I guess coming into spring, we haven't had any severe weather so it's only human that people might slacken off a bit, so no matter what's forecast, people should be aware of what season we're coming into," he said.

"When severe thunderstorms or tropical cyclones are forecast for a week ahead, people need to keep an eye out and be more aware and prepared for what might happen during that time."

Mr Higgins said people should seek shelter during a storm and if not able to get to shelter, lay down flat on the ground to minimise the risk of lightning strike.

He said people caught driving in a storm were often safest in their car and should pull over but not near a tree or powerlines, which could fall or be a lightning risk.

This week is RACQ Get Ready Queensland Week, which encourages Queenslanders to be prepared for natural disasters.

Topics:  cyclone cyclones general-seniors-news higgins storm chasing prediction predictions storm storm chaser stormprep2016 storms storm season warnings


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