031. 12th February 2008. Nature unleashes a fraction of her fury…
We did not travel in February.
This is a tale of destruction and heartbreak.
The aftermath turned all the hard work and heroics of the day into a nightmare of pettiness and impatience and frustration for some and unbelievable good fortune for others
This story is not about any of those.
In the early hours of February 2008 while most people are still tucked into bed a centrally focussed storm blew in from the northeast, funnelling through Hook Passage between Hook Island and Whitsunday Island.
The first casualty was the steel sailing vessel, “ROMANCE” with 35 passengers and crew on board was thrown upon the rocks and were rescued three hours later by helicopter. It was two months before the wreck was removed.
The narrow storm front continued across Whitsunday Passage and Molle Channel into Pioneer Bay uninterrupted and swept across moored boats outside the Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach.
Sixty six boats were washed up on the rocks or beaches. Most destroyed or so badly damaged they were total losses. Others had lesser damage. Some disappeared forever.
Six days later rain fell both here and in Mackay 150 klms to the south. In one deluge, Mackay received 600mm of rain in 24 hours. Airlie Beach received a little less, around 400mm.
Flooding occurred in Mackay while flooding and mudslides plagued Airlie Beach.
In Mackay over 4,000 homes were damaged with about 300 being total losses.
Almost twelve months later work is still being carried out on many homes while some people are still in temporary accomodation. There were simply not enough tradesmen for the work. Many tradesmen were working at the mines for huge salaries and many were still working in Innisfail from the cyclone two years before.
No it was not a cyclone. In fact most people in the area did not notice any wind. Each side of the path of wind was calm.
The following photos of boats on rocks and flooding in Mackay will tell the rest of the story.