128. Sunday 21st March 2010. Cyclones Rule. OK?…

Yep. That’s the topic this week cause that has been the major topic of news and conversation all week. News reports, opinions, interpretations, memories of cyclones past and of course what the predictions of what this one will do.

I warn you now. This is a long post but please stay with me and read on.

It started as cyclone ULUI way out in the Coral Sea as a category 5 cyclone. Category 5 is top of the tree in destructive force. This is how the Burea of Meteorology (BOM) describes a category 5 cyclone.

CATEGORY 5 (severe tropical cyclone)
Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.
A Category 5 cyclone’s strongest winds are VERY DESTRUCTIVE winds with typical gusts over open flat land of more than 280 km/h.
These winds correspond to the highest category on the Beaufort scale, Beaufort 12 (Hurricane).

Of course we have checked the tracking map put out by BOM on a daily basis, nay pretty much an hourly basis. From Wednesday onwards the projected track of the cyclone was to cross the coast at Airlie Beach.

Our home!

It had downgraded to a category 3 but still very destructive.

Friday 19th March. We had a meeting this morning on what we will do. In theory we are all expected tro be at the office on Sunday when the cyclone crosses the coast. Certainly we are expected to be at work on Monday. We all have a list of all staff mobile numbers as we expect there will be lots of claims not only from our marine clients but mainly from our non marine clients. We do not really know what to expect especially if the power goes out and roads are flooded or cut. We have a generator and each of us has taken our workstation home for safekeeping. We have a backup plan to communicate by two way radio if there is no power when mobile signals will not work. I guess we just try to make ourselves available and helpful in whatever way we can. If the hospital or Nursing Home in Proserpine needs to be evacuated Donnis may get called in but if we get the usual rain dumped during a cyclone the roads will be flooded in several places between here and Proserpine.

The updates on the BOM site have continued to predict a crossing at Airlie Beach. Even if the predictions are out, the BOM state the crossing could be 165 Klms each side so that puts us in the destructive winds area anyway.

This afternoon the BOM put the area from Cardwell in the North to Yeppoon in the South on cyclone warning which means we should make immediate plans to secure outside items, gather food & medical supplies, prepare emergency kits including candles, torches, batteries, radios and particularly water. Tomorrow I plan to fill water containers with filtered water and fill the bath with water so in the event all power is cut we can wash and flush the toilet. I will also fill the WWWGO water tanks to help keep it anchored and gives us another 120 litres of water and a water heating facility if power is out. We also have the onboard toilet and independant power and gas supply. We have not bought emergency food supplies as we already have enough to last a week or two. I did buy a loaf of bread yesterday and noticed panic buying had well and truly started with fresh fruit, veg, meat, bread and long life milk sold out.

The red area is the current position and eye of the cyclone. The grey area is the predicted path. The number in the circle (2) is the predicted intensity and Airlie Beach is on the coast to the right of Proserpine.

Make sure you click on the map above to see it full size.

On the news tonight a reporter was sent from Brisbane to Airlie Beach. He describes our town as party central and according to the people interviewed it is business as normal. However the Police have asked the clubs to act responsibly and close at midnight Saturday. They do not want a bunch of bad tempered drunks spilling onto the streets at 5 am when a cyclone is just about to cross the coast. Sheesh why not close them down 6 hours earlier so people are off the streets earlier. My personal observation this evening as I drove home is the town is quieter than normal. Less cars and people on the street.

This is how BOM describes a category 2 cyclone.

CATEGORY 2 (tropical cyclone)
Minor house damage. Significant damage to signs, trees and caravans. Heavy damage to some crops. Risk of power failure. Small craft may break moorings.
A Category 2 cyclone’s strongest winds are DESTRUCTIVE winds with typical gusts over open flat land of 125 – 164 km/h. These winds correspond to Beaufort 10 and 11 (Storm and violent storm).

Funny thing is the weather here has been fine and sunny for most of the day. A few showers and some strong wind gusts none of which are associated with the cyclone. By Saturday afternoon we will begin to feel the wind and experience rain, both of which will increase. Another funny thing is most cyclones follow the coast and bring rain a long time before they arrive. Because this one is coming straight in from the sea we will not feel wind and rain until it is almost upon us.

Saturday 20th March.

It is just after 5.20 am as I write this.

Donnis arrived home from work at half past midnight. From her comments she had a hard night but she will tell me about it later in the day after she has a sleep. I spent a restless night including biting my tongue in my sleep and waking Donnis. Gee it is sore this morning. I woke a few times and each time could hear the wind in the trees. Although it seems the wind is coming in gusts I can still hear it as a dull constant sound in the trees. Sort of like hearing a train approaching from a distance. I am uncertain if the wind is from the outer influence of the cyclone or not. There is no rain on the radar. Later in the day when we fully come under ULUI’s influence we will have constant wind and rain.

Hmmm I had planned to ride the Virago to the Motorcycle Shop atProserpine this morning as it has a flat battery and probably a short as well. That is around 4 hours from now. If the wind continues to pick up I will cancel that trip.

This is cyclone advice tracking map no 10. It was issued only a few minutes bofore I got out of bed. Still on track but slightly above us although we will still be in the eye.

Because of the restless night I woke at 5.15 and have not been able to get back to sleep. Perhaps ULUI is weighing on my subconscious and is a bit like anchoring a boat in a new location. When I owned the yacht “ASTARET” I must have had a phobia about being safely anchored. Although I convinced myself it was anchored correc tly and there was no drifting, I still spent restless nights getting up and checking bearings to ensure we had not moved. So… although I am certain we can ride this out OK, my subconscious wakes me to check around the house, listen to the wind and get back to sleep. However once I woke at 5.15 I tossed and turned for a while but I knew I would not get back to sleep. That is why I am typing this while it is still dark outside.

Last night I mentioned nightclubs closing at 5am. As I was typing this I heard a couple of people walking past on the street outside. It was obvious from their words and loudness they are on their way home from the clubs. I sure hope tomorrow morning there are no drunks on the streets at this time. Could be a dangerous time.

The breeze coming in the office window is quite cool – by our summer standards.

It is now 8.45am. The rain which began shortly after I started writing this morning has stopped. I have had breakfast, went for a walk, did exercise and decided I will ride to Proserpine. The wind is more constant but still not frightening. The sun is out and there are blue skies above but that can change quickly. I have put a wet liner inside my jacket and will wear wet weather pants. All I need now is for Donnis to wake up so we can push start the bike and I can get going.

In the meantime I have posted cyclone advice No.11. Don’t forget to click on it for a larger view.

I started backup onto a 500Gb external hard drive of the PC drive last night and started backup of the two external hard drives this morning. The main external hard drive has 79Gb of stuff on it. Mostly photos. It has more stuff stored on it than the PC. It has taken well over an hour and is only 76% backed up. When it finishes I can start on the laptop which has about 40Gb to backup. Provided the PC, laptop or external hard drives – three of them – are not damaged or lost this time tomorrow I will still have my files intact.

Cyclone advice 11. Note the line is now a little below Proserpine (Airlie Beach) but we will still be in the eye and worst part of ULUI.

After pushing the Virago up our long sloping driveway and getting heart activity and heavy breathing I tried to start the bike on the hill. It did not start. After Donnis joined me we pushed the recalcitrany Virago back up the hill. This time I remembered to swithch off the kill switch and push the choke to full. It started but was not happy and would not hold an idle. So… we pushed it back up the hill and then coasted down into the garage where it now sits as a forlorn reminder I have to find a way to get it to a mechanic or get a mechanic to it. Geez!

The wind picked up as yet another warning advice, number 12 arrived. Yep. Still on track but a little south of us. Probably Conway Beach but that still puts us in the destructive wind area.

Cyclone advice No. 12.

It is now 3pm and we have cleared all loose objects and stacked them in the garage. WWWGo water tanks are full. Batteries are on constant charge. UHF radio works.  We have about 20 litres of filtered water and the bath tub is filled.

Cyclone warning advice No.13

We drove to the shopping centre for a battery operated radio (in the old days we called them transistor radios) None left at any of the 5 stores we tried. Why do we need a battery radio? If the power is cut, the radio stations will take time to get emergency generators and transmitters working. We still have two cars with radios and WWWGO has two radios and we can also pick up TV signal all on batteries. We also have neighbours.We also have the fridge on WWWGO which can run on gas. I did however collect four of the 7 or 8 torches on board and bring them inside. We have a battery operated table lamp which is also rechargeable so it is on charge along with another 4AA batteries.

The tracking map now puts ULUI crossing the coast earlySunday morning. It is always a good time for a cyclone to cross. In the dark sleepy hours when you cannot see a thing if the power is out. Perhaps we should get a bit of sleep now while the wind has died down a bit and the rain is just a drizzle.

The prediction is for it to increase to a category 3 before it crosses so that puts the winds in the “very destructive” category.

Next update is at 5pm.

 Severe Tropical Cyclone Category 3.

 Very destructive winds 

 165 – 224 km/h 

 Some roof and structural damage. Some caravans destroyed. Power failure likely

Still on Saturday night but lets get further forward in time and stop messing around with the charts. Airlie Beach was the target and as sure as night follows day I felt the cyclone would cross the coast right here. The worst part of the cyclone, the EYE, would hit us right where we live. The wind and rain gradually picked up late in the afternoon and during the night but nothing worse than what we have experienced before. The prediction  on radio, TV and the Internet told us the crossing would occur between 2am and 3am. Sometime after 10.30pm we called an end to the day and went to bed. By now the wind had increased to the point it sounded like a train racing through the treetops. It was driving the rain horizontally against the windows and walls. Each gust of wind driven rain sounded like a million fingers clawing their way in. Of course it took some time to drift off to sleep but we did. At half past midnight we were awakened by a loud crash on the roof above us. I raced outside to discover a tree from next door had been blown down over our roof.

This is the tall thin tree which fell on our bedroom roof. Gee it looks kinda small but it was awkward to move and very heavy.

Nothing I could do so we went back inside. No holes in the celing and no apparent leaks so went back to bed. About 12.45 the power went out. Now the clawing fingers got louder and more insistent. In the dark you can only imagine what is going on. Unknown to us those clawing fingers were now shredded leaves from the trees. They were pasted to windows and walls and on WWWGO too. About 1.30 we believed the eye was passing over us as it went quiet outside. No wind, no rain, no sound. We discovered next day the winds were up to 200 klm per hour. The quiet time is dangerous to venture outside as the cyclone will return with a vengeance. Winds will come from the opposite direction as fiercely as they came in the first place. Sometime after the “EYE” we fell into a restless sleep but not before preparing our ensuite bathroom, the strongest room in the house, for an emergency room. We piled the floor with cushions and pillows and a mattress suspended over the top. We went back to bed but ready to evacuate to the emergency room at a moments notice.

Sunday 21st March 2009. We woke to an overcast, rainy and windy morning but not as windy as the day and night before.

We survived!

Outside was shredded trees and branches. Then I discovered a large tree branch had fallen on the garage roof, punching a hole in the sheet roofing.

This was the large branch which fell on the garage and punched a hole through the roof. It was heavier and due to the fork, harder to manouvre off the roof with just Frank n Donnis power.

Trees fallen everywhere I looked. No power, no mobile phone coverage and no phone. No radio, no TV. However we disconnected the hands free cordless phone and plugged in an older corded phone. We got dial tone! Yahoo! The water is still running! We turned on WWWGO fridge to run on gas and transferred as much food as we could jam in. We ate some and threw the rest out. I managed to call my boss and it seems that Shute Harbour, a cyclone haven, is a picture of devastation with sunken yachts, a pontoon and walkway caved in and yachts with shredded sails and headsails and yachts on the rocks and in the mangroves. I went to take photos ready for the flood of claims surely to come in on Monday.

Sunken catamaran at Shute harbour. One of more than 20 boats destroyed or badly damaged at cyclone haven, Shute Harbour.

I also took photos at Airlie Beach,

This vessel at Ailrie Beach near the Yacht Club is certainly sitting on at least one other boat but more likely two boats. We will not know until the cranes lift it out.

Cannonvale Beach

This was somebody's home. It has been declared a total loss. In 2008 I saw another catamaran destroyed in this very same spot.

and Shingley Beach. By my estimation at least 60 boats in trouble and probably half that number are total losses. A sickening sight.

Let me share an observation.

On 12th February 2008 a freak storm ripped 66 boats from their moorings outside Abel Point Marina. About half were destroyed, some damaged some missing. A few berthed inside the marina suffered minor damage and one significant damage from a boat loose from a mooring which founds its way into the marina and crashed into another boat.

Many of the people from 2008 still had their boats on moorings outside the marina in 2010.

On 21st March 2010 around 60 boats were destroyed, damaged or lost spread over a wider area of the Whitsunday region. The worst case of destroyed boats were those moored outside the marina. In fact most boats which ended up on the rocks, ended up in the exact same location as other boats in 2008. Only a few boats in the marina suffered any damage and even then it was minor stuff.

I have to ponder the question. If you saw 66 boats from the 2008 disaster and still kept your boat on a mooring in 2010 and did not try to get into a marina are you really taking good care of your boat?

The good news is no loss of life and only a few injuries. The amazing thing is very few properties damaged. Well, at least in Airlie Beach. Outlying areas not at the centre of the cyclone but with lesser winds fared worse. They are also populated with older houses and flat stretches of ground the wind can gain momentrum. Here in Airlie houses are built along the contour folds of the hills. Perhaps that helped to slow the direct wind which causes the damage. Gee there is a lot of damage to trees and signs.

In the washup the power finally came back to our street sometime mid morning, Tuesday 23rd March. I am now able to finally finish this entry and get a few photos for you to see. With around 200 photos to choose from that could be a slow process to find just a few.


One Response to “128. Sunday 21st March 2010. Cyclones Rule. OK?…”

  1. Geoff Says:

    You got out of that one very well.
    Thanks for the write up Frank.
    Cheers, Geoff.


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