I’m borrowing my husband’s computer. We’ve been without power for five days and now it’s back on, but as soon as I reconnected, even though I have a surge protector, the battery in my Telstra wireless broadband USB blew up. I mean it literally swelled and popped! But I wanted to thank you all so much for the wonderful messages of sympathy and support. I caught quite a few of them before we lost power, and then… found the rest, waiting… and I felt very connected to a wonderful bunch of people.
As you probably know by now, Cyclone Yasi was a force to be reckoned with and our near neighbours in Cardwell, Tully, El Arish and environs have suffered terribly. The damage would have been so much worse, however, if Yasi hadn’t decided to duck to the south before crossing the coast, thus landing midway between Townsville and Cairns, North Queensland’s two largest population centres.
Also, Yasi slowed down as she approached the coast and arrived at low tide instead of the predicted high tide, so the terrible storm surges weren’t quite as devastating as they might have been. Even so, the damage has been horrendous.
For us, the final day of preparation was frantic as we scurried to clean up the yard. We had so much junk lying around –and yikes! I disturbed a venomous black snake while moving some timber!
We battened down windows and doors with Premier Anna Bligh’s warning of a “fearsome and deadly storm” ringing in our ears. I packed a bag with medical supplies, a change of clothes, our insurance documents, my USB stick with my work in progress… and we might have evacuated if we’d had more time, but it took us all day to secure the house and yard. Besides, we knew our house was newly constructed to cyclone standards, and we were in the mountains (although only 40 kms from the coast as the crow flies)… plus we knew the roads would be closed after the cyclone had passed and we wouldn’t be able to get back. With visions of a week’s worth of rain pouring in through possibly gaping windows, we opted to stay.
Our car was parked in the garage, backed right up to the door, with Elliot’s swag wedged in to take the pressure – as we’d heard that roller doors often blow in.
We let our guinea fowl go. That was a difficult decision but I had visions of the poor things being blown up against the wire of the cage and badly injured. Freed, they took off for the long grass in the paddock next door and hunkered down, and the next morning they emerged from the grass without any signs of trauma.
Did we have an escape plan?
If things got bad, we would hide under the bed – or in the bath with a mattress over us. In the very worst case scenario we would run to the garage and get into the car. Thank heavens none of these options was necessary.
We lost power at about 2.30 on Wednesday afternoon just as the winds and the rain started to pick up intensity. The storm lasted twenty-four hours – the worst of it happening between 6 pm and 6 am, with the very peak of its ferocity between 1 am and 2.30 am. But because our house didn’t budge or vibrate or show the slightest sign of weakness, I felt surprisingly safe. Not scared at all, which is amazing, because I’m not a brave person. We had a gas lamp glowing and the radio playing and we even tried to sleep in snatches.
The ABC radio was brilliant. I heard so many people sharing stories – the woman who put her phone number on her horses, then broke down while telling the radio announcer about it. A man alone in his house at Mission Beach pacing up and down the hallway, clearly terrified, gaining a little strength just by being able to talk to someone.
We were dreadfully worried about our neighbours who have two huge (I mean ginormously HUGE) pine trees towering over their house. We’d tried to get them to shelter with us, but they’re independent county folk and would only come if they had no choice – like a tree had already fallen on them and they needed to hack their way out through the floorboards with a chainsaw. I know… I know…
As it turned out, we had the very edge of the really bad winds (incredibly noisy – howling is too tame a word) but although smaller trees fell down, the big ones stayed firm. Blogger doesn't seem to be cooperating so I can't show you other pics.
Some people might wonder why we live in such a dangerous part of the world with wild cyclones, man-eating crocodiles, venomous snakes and deadly sea stingers.
I must admit, although we’ve lived here now for nearly forty years, I’ve spent the first half of that time, hoping to return to the south one day. In fact we did return south for a few years… and then came back.
And now I’m pretty sure I’d really miss the north if we left. I loved Heather Brown’s article Tough Breed in The Weekend Australian.
To quote her she says: I am a Queensland northerner, born and bred, and for better or worse I carry 100 years of history in the blood, 100 years of family crazy-drunk in love with a wild and unpredictable place.
She told how she sat up all night on Wednesday night following the progress of the cyclone on TV and the internet, while her husband slept beside her. As he was a southerner, she didn’t expect him to understand, but she also said: I just hoped my husband didn’t really know how much I wanted to go home that night, to feel the forces of my land again, the sweet dense wind, rain hard enough to bruise the flesh.
Crazy as it might sound to the rest of you, there’s a kind of pride in being a North Queenslander, an acceptance that life is a bit tougher up here, and that everything is more intense – the colours, the scents, the lush growth… and.. well, yes, the weather…
Call me weird, but it's possible that life elsewhere would seem less somehow…
Anyway… as far as our property and Cyclone Yasi are concerned, trees came down, and now we’re now mulching them with the mulcher we bought with Kevin 07’s handout. !
On a sadder note, do you remember this photo I posted of Cardwell last week? I’m afraid it’s a VERY different scene now.