546. Sunday 2nd April 2017. Tropical Cyclone Debbie cuts a huge swathe of destruction over two states…

Monday 27th March

Tropical Cyclone Debbie, located off the coast near Townsville is increasing in size and moving slowly towards the coast. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts it will make landfall around Ayr, give or take a few Klms somewhere around 7am tomorrow morning. That predicted crossing of the coast would coincide with a King Tide. If that were to happen there may be a massive tidal surge of around an additional three metres.  I, on the other hand had this gut feeling landfall would be between Bowen and Airlie Beach, more likely Airlie Beach as happened in 2010 and 2014.

In 2010 Airlie suffered a direct hit and a tree crashed into our bedroom roof

tree on roof
We were asleep while Tropical Cyclone Ului, Category three was raging outside. It was mid February 2010. Around midnight we were awoken by a falling tree over our bedroom roof. Just in case we moved a mattress and cushions into the bathroom in case the roof came off in the winds. Somehow we managed to get back to a troubled fitful sleep.

and another punched a hole through the garage roof.

tree on garage
Naturally we heard the noise of the tree on our bedrtoom roof but were oblivious to this heavy tree branch which punched a hole through the garage roof.

Sixty four boats were washed up on the rocks in Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour.

crane over port of airlie
Cyclone Ului 2010 twisted the arm of this crane used in the construction of a new marina and resort complex at Airlie Beach.
jade ii
Cyclone Ului 2010. The catamaran Jade was a popular bareboat based out of Airlie Beach. It was a total loss.
anaconda ii
Cyclone Ului 2010. This well known and popular backpacker charter boat was washed up on the rocks near the yacht club. The conditions were too savage to begin and salvage works and over the next few days was ground into a splintered total loss.
personal possession
Cyclone Ului 2010. The debris scattered along this beach at Airlie Beach had been washed out of two live aboard boats moored off the Sailing Club.

In 2014 I was living in our motorhome at Airlie Beach waiting for our tenants to move out. There was no damage to our house and the caravan park, despite large trees all around me was a safe place…for me. Around 70 boats were washed onto rocks, beaches and mangroves. Both cyclones were rather fast moving and level two…winds to 160 Kph when they crossed. Debbie was a slow moving system and was a level four…winds to 270 Kph…when it crossed the coast. The width of the cyclone would have swallowed the entire British Isles and perhaps even Iceland as well.

By tonight the cyclone started slowly tracking south and Bowen was the predicted impact point. I still felt Airlie Beach would be the impact zone. By bedtime heavy rains were falling and winds were screeching and throwing debris around. Of course we saw all this on the news reports from the comfort of our lounge room on the Gold Coast 1,000 Klms away!

Tuesday 28th March

Up early to watch the special news coverage. TV networks had reporters in Townsville, Ayr, Bowen, Airlie Beach and Mackay. They had all bases covered. Reporters were to report on what they could see from wherever they were accommodated but not to go away from the safety offered by a building. Good thing they did. Even filming from a balcony in Airlie Beach the reporter could barely stand in the wind and were drenched by driving rain. By now all power was out in Bowen, Airlie and Mackay. As the morning progressed it was clear Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour would cop a direct hit but places like Proserpine, Collinsville, Bowen, Mackay, Mirani and many other small towns would cop the whip from the tail of TC Debbie. We managed to call our neighbour in Airlie Beach who had no power but was charging his phone in the car. The cyclone was still raging but so far, all OK. The cyclone eye would soon pass and then the winds would change direction and intensity. As it turned out, after the eye passed, the wind changed direction and unbelievably was stronger and rain heavier and lasted far longer. Even after TC Debbie had crossed the coast and moved inland the wind and rain continued all night.

The fabulous resort islands of Hamilton, Hayman and Daydream were impacted with buildings unroofed, windows blown in, water seeping through open roofs and marina damage and beach erosion adding to the confusion. Guests who elected or had no choice but to stay now began demanding refunds or a better room and free meals and unbelievably, removal from the islands.  Damage to marina especially in the case of Daydream where the entire jetty system was destroyed meant that after the seas abated nobody could be removed by sea from the island.

Meanwhile the Shute Harbour Ferry terminal and jetties were also totally destroyed.

The main Airlie Beach Marina at Abel Point had the main passenger pontoon and gangways totally destroyed. Boats simply cannot leave Airlie Beach to service the Islands and the islands have no landing facilities anyway.

The Hamilton Island Airport was closed and the control tower and radar installation were damaged.

What is in store for tomorrow?

Wednesday 29th March

Unbelievably and unpredictably, the wind and rain continued along the coast. TC Debbie moved inland as a Category two and not yet downgraded to a Tropical Low. Inland towns such as Collinsville and Proserpine also copped a hammering, lost houses, power, and roads were cut and flooding began. Further south but west of Mackay in towns along the Pioneer Valley were also drenched and flooded and houses unroofed. The main western road to Nebo, Moranbah and the mining towns were cut off when the Eton Range road was washed away in several places. Still further south at Sarina and the alternate main road to Nebo and the mining towns, The Sarina Range Road was also washed away in several places.

Power was cut in most towns with fallen power lines and flooded or washed away roads or trees fallen over the road simply added to the mammoth destruction still occurring.

As ex TC Debbie started to move south wind and rains lashed Queensland from the coast to the Great Dividing Range. Flooding was occurring in places far removed from the original impact zone at Airlie Beach.

Thursday 30th March

Ex Tc Debbie continued its southward push dumping huge volumes of rain and still punching out winds of over 100 Kph. Rainfall of 700mm to 1,000 mm in 24 hours was being recorded. Flooding occurred all along the south east Queensland area from Gympie to Brisbane to the Gold Coast and across the Tweed River into NSW where Lismore was in flood as were many smaller towns. The rain continued all along the east coast of NSW as far south as Sydney and Wollongong.

Here on the Gold Coast 30 roads were closed due to flooding and or bridges being washed away. In places roads were washed away. Most of the hinterland was isolated due to flooding and or road closures.

The State Government declared a state of Emergency and closed all schools from Ayr to the NSW Qld border. They also asked that all non -essential businesses to close for two days. This had the effect of keeping huge volumes of traffic off the roads (except for some people doing stupid things like getting caught in floodwaters or simply clogging up roads with their rubber necking) and allowing essential services to move around more easily.

To date there has been no deaths due to TC Debbie and ex TC Debbie. Our emergency procedures worked as they were planned. Thanks to all essential services such as Police, Ambulance, Ergon Energy, SES and from today, the Armed Forces.

I’m guessing not many new born daughters will be called Debbie in the next few years.

Here at our home enormous volumes of water were dumped on us but the Biggera Creek coped with the volume and never looked like breaking its banks.

Here, life went on as normal.

Friday 30th March

Life goes on but for those people affected by the cyclone and the aftermath and all the rain and flooding and power failures and road closures we can only sympathise and hope for a speedy recovery.

Saturday 1st April.

Virgin Airlines announces it will be using specially trained friendly dogs on its flights.

That would appeal to about 50% of passengers.

Today is April Fool’s Day.

Sunday 2nd April

Overcast, windy and cool.

Cool? Yep only 27° today!

Actually it was cold last night. We have been sleeping with only a sheet or even no sheet, during summer. Now that autumn has arrived we needed the equivalent of two sheets on the bed last night. I am reliably informed the temperature dropped as low as 19° last night. Hehehehe!

In the southern districts of Brisbane around the Logan and Albert Rivers, floodwaters are continuing to rise. Tales of losses are a major feature of the news every night. Every few hours a new flooding emergency arises. Towns such as Beenleigh and Eagleby are popular with small acreages and lots of small farms with horse or cattle. Today they are in flood. The mud army which cleaned up after the Brisbane floods of 2011 are at it again.

Rockhampton in the Capricornia District of Qld, dodged a bullet when TC Debbie and ex TC Debbie raged around it but did not dump wind or rain on the town. The cyclone did dump huge amounts of rain inland in the tributaries which feed into the Fitzroy River. Now almost a week since TC Debbie fist started its path of destruction, Rockhampton, on the Fitzroy River is now bracing for major flooding sometime tomorrow.

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