Monday, February 07, 2011

Cyclone Yasi...

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.


2paw said...

I am so glad you are safe, I had been waiting to see your post Yasi post. It is heart-rending to see all the destruction, but everyone is so lucky that there was only one life lost, I think. One too many, but it could have been much worse. I think every state in Australia has its own strengths and characteristics. I know that as 'island' dwellers, we see ourselves as separate yet still part of the whole.
Those Guinea fowls are survivors!!!
The ABC is totally brilliant, they are always there in a emergency. I have batteries in my little radio all the time, just in case. It mad me think what I would take with me: The Labradors, my photobook of all the dogs and me. That's it really everything else is just stuff.

Lacey Devlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lacey Devlin said...

I'm so glad you're okay :) And you'll be eligible for compensation too which should help with all exploding things and restocking the fridge.

I love that the Guinea fowls came through unscathed, although I wince just thinking about those pine trees!

Anonymous said...

Dear Barb,
so lovely to hear from you.
I listened to Cairns radio as it approached and they
were brilliant too, talking and playing music and listening as callers rang in - it was broadcast down here on the television and I thought of you and E.
What a wonderful medium radio is.
Anyway, thank you for posting and letting us know and we can't wait to hear more from you when your power is properly on.
Much love

Margaret Mayo said...

I'm so pleased to hear you're safe and sound, Barbara. I've been thinking about you and wondering whether you had suffered. It's hard for us here in the UK to imagine a cyclone like that. You sound very resourceful and brave, I'm sure I would have been panicking. Hugs to you both.

Miss Bougie said...

Have been checking your blog every so often to see how you were doing and am pleased that you are unscathed.

We didn't get much coverage on TV over here so I relied on the net to get updates.

What a nightmare it must have been for all of you, over in North Queensland - I can't imagine.
Our weather pattern over here is much more placid and I think I would have freaked out.
Howling winds and expecting the roof to be ripped off at any moment! Dear me!

So hats off to all of you.

Barbara Hannay said...

Thanks again for your concern and comments. I just love the internet and to be hooked up to wonderful people as near as Cairns, but also as far away as Tassie, UK and France.

I started writing again yesterday for the first time in a week. Felt good.

Trish Morey said...

Yay Barb, we've missed you!

Not so crazy to hear about the black snake under the timber, or the exploding modum (had a wee tree snake taken shelter in there, I wondered:-)) but so good to hear you're back with us. And with power! I was worried that might take weeks, the way they were talking after the cyclone.

I"m another who sat up watching the ABC coverage fretting. Quite useless given how powerless one is in that situation, but there it is.

So glad to hear the house performed well. I love your slice of paradise. So glad you and it have survived!

Hugs B&E,


JoyfullyHis said...

So relieved to hear that you are all ok. We are following it all from Oklahoma and praying for a quick recovery. And yikes at the size of that cyclone! Hats off to you for your determination to continue that pioneer spirit.