Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Blogging Cyclone Yasi

I probably should have started this on Monday and will no doubt get distracted by life from time-to-time but I'll try to update this regularly as Cyclone Yasi gets closer to landfall and for as long as the power stays on.

For those new to the blog, I'm posting from Magnetic Island, off Townsville - a small rural city somewhere east of Mount Isa and somewhere south of Yasi's projected path (we hope).  The most recent post follows:

8:18pm 02/02     Check this out - it might be an hour or so old. Source

8:10pm 02/02     Just checked my blog stats - this has been great for my visitor numbers!!

The background roar is getting louder - I still cant work out whether it's the sea of the wind.  One thing is for sure - they are both pretty wild!

The BOM is still forecasting a midnight crossing and has Yasi still as a Cat 3 when it hits the Atherton Tablelands - and they ain't built for that up there!

8:05pm 02/02     Just been outside for one of those cigars I got earlier.  It is really blowing now - and from every direction.

Just heard that they have apparently evacuated everyone from Cardwell (2 hours up the track and 1/2 way to Cairns)- I'm not surprised as it's right on the coast and very low land.  I hope Risty and his mob are ok.

All of the buckets are full and there's a days worth of dunny water in the bath - after that the gully outside will be running.

And I've almost run out of duct tape!!! That's mistake No 2 (No 1 being not getting a new stove top espresso maker).  I have all that I need for tonight but I'm sure I'll need more in the morning.  How could anyone run out of duck tape!!!!???

7:30pm 02/02     Just had a panic about what I'm gonna read by candle light in the bathroom for 5 or 6 hours!!  Decided on a comedy.

You can watch Yasi here on the BOM radar- you can clearly see her eye relative to Cairns and Townsville and the rain we are copping.

Listening intently to local ABC radio now - they play an incredibly important role at times like this.  It's good to hear first hand accounts about what is happening up and down the coast - it gives you a better idea of what to expect.  There must be thousands of people along the north Qld coast camped in their bathrooms right now listening to their radio.  They are broadcasting on AM, FM and shortwave - how damn good is that!

It's funny, when I started this I was going to blog on the press response to Yasi.  I never did. Until now!  And that's about the assessment - some of the coverage has been ok but most of it sh*t (as normal in other words) and ABC radio is essential

6:45pm 02/02      The office is shut down and all turned off. I'll keep this one running while I can.  It's quite dark now - light nightfall but 30 minutes early.

10 minutes or so and I will pack this up too and maybe try a few posts by phone a bit later on.

Most strange - a wallaby (not Wally) has turned up for a feed.  She has a joey so maybe just had to come out for food??  I certainly wouldn't want to be out in that - it has to be getting close to tree-over winds!

6:10pm 02/02     Just had my first brown-out but the UPS did it's job.  It will start to get nasty in about an hour or so but I don't think power will last that long.  Even though they just finished trimming the trees around the lines one of them has to get taken out sooner or later.

I will go and pack away the other computer and blog again if I can.  If I can't - we're all sorted and the prognosis is good when compared to that for those in Mission Beach.

There is a dull rumble in the background when I go outside - can't tell whether is the wind or the waves!

5:35pm 02/02     There's a new Kookaburra nest created!!  If you look closely in the middle ground there is a tree branch broken in three places - the Kooka's will love it!

Also, just saw what I think is a Garnet (very angular wings)  and it reminded me - i saw about 10 of the same surfing the breeze (in formation no less) when I last went down to the beach.  It was quite extraordinary as I'd seen no other birds all day and yet they were just hanging there about 25 feet of the ground in formation like seagulls surfing the wind currents off a cliff.

4:45pm 02/02     Crazy Hoyt across the way has just lost a tree - you might see it if you compare this pic with the similar one posted a while back:

It looks like I'll soon lose my Frangipani out front too.
BOM has us (Townsville) copping 100km wind gusts

4:40pm 02/02     All the windows are shut now and there are a few quite large branches down in the park across the way.  My Internet connection is starting to drop out intermittently and the nasty stuff is still a couple of hours away and then could take 5-8 hours to pass. 

I'm still glad I don't live Mission Beach! - or Mount Isa for that matter - those guys would have no experience of a cyclone and it's forecast to still be a Cat 1 when it gets out there (8-hours by road).

4:25pm 02/02     Just saw the coppers heading back home to Picnic Bay - Brenden and the boys will be very p*ssed that it had to be this week that their 4x4 went to town for maintenance and they get a sedan as its replacement.

4:20pm 02/02     The 4:00pm forecast - we're now officially starting to experience strong gale force winds but I guess I knew that.

4:05pm 02/02     I've just realised that Cardwell (North of us) is now forecast to get a storm surge PLUS 7 metre waves on top.  Cardwell is just up the channel where Sunferries have apparently sent their boats for shelter (see earlier entry) - Idiots!

3:55pm 02/02     It's starting to get cooler (now down to our normal evening temp of about 25) and after every wind gust there's a flurry of tree leaves in the air.  Looking up the hill next to me, the high trees are already taking a battering

The stories from Cairns are amazing - 2,000 people sheltering in a shopping mall with the supermarkets opening their doors to feed them.

3:40pm 02/02     The coffee won and it's a beauty.  The front door is now shut as it's getting very squally outside.  The wind is coming from all directions and the rain is starting to get horizontal - something that we're not used to up here - tropical rain is vertical.

Larger limbs are starting to come down in the park across the road and the wind is rising to the occasional whistle.  I haven't seen or heard a car on Sooning St for at least an hour.

I bet lots of others are opening their first beer about now so bugger it, the coffee's drunk, why not? 

3:30pm 02/02     Can't work out whether to have another coffee while there's power for the espresso machine or a beer!

3:12pm 02/02     Most of the doors are now shut and Tom's wrestling mattress is in the bathroom ready for the worse.  Starting to get the documents and pics in plastic but will leave the hard drives as long as possible (or until the power goes).

The BOM 3pm forecast has Strong Gale Force winds arriving here in about an hour

2:40pm 02/02    The 2:00pm forecast has Yasi coming in a bit further to the south with the eye covering about 100km with Mission Beach at the centre.  We'll copy the winds in the dark pink bit - officially described as "Destructive" - about the equivalent of Cat 2 or 3 Cyclone.  (The grey shaded area is essentially the margin for error for the track forecast)

The winds should start picking up significantly in a couple of hours with the eye crossing the coast at about 11:00 tonight.  I cant stop thinking that I'm lucky I'm not further north.

2:00pm 02/02     Back from my last drive for a sticky-beak.  The winds must be getting close to gale force down there - Another before pic of X base for later on (see 6:13pm entry from yesterday below).

That will be my last drive.  The car is parked up the hill in a clear spot. 

Small branches are starting to come down as is the odd Banana tree and I'm no longer sure about the walk down to the beach that I had been planning for an hour or twos time.

Still flying the flag

1:41pm 02/02     This is literally true:

1:34pm 02/02     Outside the front door - a lot of those clouds are getting sucked out to Yasi at real speed - exactly opposite to their normal direction

1:18pm 02/02    Just made what will likely be my last espresso for a while and realised that I hadn't replaced my emergency stove top coffee maker  It will be 1-cup filter coffee or Greek coffee in the morning

The news gets worse.  It looks as if the worse winds will between Innisfail and Cardwell (about 2 hours north from us) which means we could easily have 150 km winds!  Mind you, them further north will be copping 300 km winds!!!!

Finished taping the windows and outside is all organised bar bringing the bikes into the lounge.

The winds are constantly picking up now and I'd guess the we only have an hour or two before a line goes down somewhere and we lose power

I'd like to get out for one more look in the car but heavy rain has started and it doesn't look real flash out there - we'll see

12:51pm 02/02     Wow!

12:31am 02/02     Back from a quick drive down to "the front".  The coconuts are starting to bend in the wind (exactly as they're designed to) and, believe me, you wouldn't want to be out on the water!

Satellite TV (all I can get) is cutting out because of the increasing cloud so it's radio from here on in - much more informative anyway.
Looking back to Nelly Bay - the sea is a lot angrier than it looks
Little boxes of ticky tacky at Bright Point - their first real test!

An interesting way of boarding up your restaurant windows!
But then would you take cyclone advice from a Frenchman?

11:45am 02/02     Most recent advice is a storm surge of 3m for us.  I'll be fine as will the kids but it is quite possible that there will be no beer at the Picnic Bay Pub tomorrow either!

News is that Yasi has taken out the Willis Is weather station  (off Cairns) - winds of 295km / hr!!

11:02am 02/02     Back from the shops for last minute supplies - matches for the gas burner and three days supply of cigars!  I don't know who was busier - the mini-mart or the bottle shop!

The rain has started for real and the wind is quite gusty now.  The tide is one the wane but the sea at Nelly is now very dirty - the kite surfers have gone home.

10:25am 02/02     Back from a quick trip around the island after dropping the kids off.  It's morning high tide and a 2m storm surge (what we're expecting) on top of that would be pretty ugly.  (I've rechecked the flood maps to comfort myself). 

The sea is pretty angry on the south and eastern sides of the Island, but Horseshoe Bay on the north is almost a millpond (if a somewhat dirty one!).

The wind is beginning to pickup again, and I've just received my third emergency text alert for the morning.  The Clinic has set up an emergency medical centre at the back of Nelly Bay just in case and the Ambo's building (HQ for emergency services) is a hive of activity.

The supermarkets are much quieter than I expected and will close in a couple of hours.  Everything else on the island is pretty well shut down - except for the kite surfers in Nelly Bay who are having a ball!

Pics from my last venture out - with luck, I'll get out in a few hours for another:
Picnic Bay Jetty - You can't see it but the waves are breaking over
the jetty - something that normally only happens in a king tide

No beer at the Picnic Bay Pub today
The Esplanade is under mandatory evacuation orders

Horseshoe Bay - dead calm and bits of blue

8:29am 02/02     Believe it or not, the sun is out!  Most of the heavy low cloud that was around earlier has gone and you can see the last them being sucked north , feeding Yasi as she lumbers on towards the coast.

The winds are getting quite gusty and I can clearly hear the waves on the beach - quite unusual during the day.

Time to get the kids organised to go to their Mum's - we know that her's was one of the few in Picnic Bay to survive Cyclone Althea and while I'm confident about my place (block construction), it was built since Althea so we just can't be sure.

7:42am 02/02     Just back from buying the last of the milk and day-old bread on the island.  Nelly Bay is very quiet - a few cars and trailers doing last minute trips to the dump and one lone walker on the beach.  Most of the boats are gone from the Harbour (I wonder to where) but Johnny Elliton's new hand-crafted ocean-going trimaran is still sitting there - I hope he'll be ok.

One other guy came into Foodworks while I was there and, while buying his fags, casually asked Robyn whether the "storm" will come anywhere near us.  She explained that we're likely to get Cat 2 or even 3 winds and flooding.  He just looked at her blankly and shrugged - no idea!

The water is beginning to look quite angry and there is a lot of weed on the shore already.  Back at home it is eerily quiet without any of the normal bird noise filling the background

Wally seems to have headed for the hills!

6:52am 02/02     Wally (the Wallaby) has just come in for his morning feed.  He's a lot more skitty than normal at this hour when He'd be thinking of a daytime snooze.  He was certainly looking for a cuddle.

It will be interesting to see if he hangs around here or heads for the rocks for the day.

6:22am 02/02     The rain has started.

6:15am 02/02      Woke to the news that Yasi is already a Cat 5 and is still on track to hit Innisfail / Cairns head on!  They are reporting this morning that the eye of the storm alone is 100km across which means that both Cairns and Innisfail (and certainly any poor buggers left in the Aboriginal community of Yarabah on the coast up up there).

Here on the island, the sky is dark and heavy with cloud and the wind has picked up quite a bit since bed time 8 hours ago.  It's a bit like the beginning of a squally storm except there is none of the bird noise and no sign of Wallaby's heading home after a night on the grass that we would normally hear and see at this hour.

This is going to be a long day but not nearly as long or as frightening as it is gonna be for those people in Cairns!!

10:05pm Tues 01/02     Well that's it for the night.  With the news that some 30,000 people in the Cairns region are being relocated, I can go to bed fairly confident that we are going to be spared the worse.

The kids are getting nervous again - the 10-year old is asleep in my bed and the 15-year old is getting all sorts of cyclone advice from other 15 year olds via facebook.

I see from twitter that the Sunrise program have flown their weatherman into Innisfail so that he can broadcast the action live in the morning.  Trouble is, the real action won't be until the afternoon by which time I'm sure he'll be out of harms way sipping G&T's somewhere.  God, the MSM give me the sh*ts sometimes a lot of the time.

Tomorrow should be interesting

9:00pm Tues 01/02      This was taken at 7:30 tonight - Big bugger hey

8:39pm Tues 01/02      The breeze has picked up but only slightly and I can hear the waves from beach, but the sky is still filled with stars and the bush nightlife seems as active as ever. 

It seems that with every release from the BOM, Yasi's trajectory towards Cairns/Innisfail and then on to the Tablelands becomes more certain.

6:47pm Tues 01/02     Just went out to feed Wally (the Wallaby - of course) and have a pat.  Heard the last ferry going - we're isolated now until Friday I suspect. 

Wally doesn't seem to worried about anything!

6:13pm Tues 01/02      Back from a walk on the beach.  It's surprisingly quiet with fresh sea plants that have been ripped up out to sea the only real sign that anything might be up.

I took the opportunity to take this pic of part the sea frontage at X Base at the western end of Nelly Bay.  I've posted before about this mob's attitude to their location and will be interested to take a pic from the same spot after tomorrow night's storm surge. 

The rubble you can see was never cleaned up since the last cyclone and my bet is that, come Thursday morning, it will either be gone or joined by a whole heap of other rubble from their site.  Either way, it will be off to the EPA!

4:45pm Tues 01/02      Things are getting very quiet on the roads around the Island and many businesses are already shut. 

The shops opposite the Nelly Bay Harbour are boarded up - pretty smart when you consider that the hideous boxes of ticky-tacky on the Harbour are likely to be the first thing to blow away.

Everybody is saying 'take care' or 'stay safe' when you greet them or stop for a chat.

A social game is still going on at the bowls club and the bar is still open.  There is an almost rideable wave developing at Alma Bay

And THE BEER HAS ARRIVED!!  Thank god for Tommy

3:57pm Tues 01/02     Word has it that Sunferries are taking the ferries to the Hinchinbrook channel to ride out the storm.  How bright is that - Hinchinbrook is to the north, between us and Yasi's forecast track. Doh!

On the other hand, Fantasea are sending their barges south to the Whitsundays.  But then, they were always the brighter of the two companies.

3:23pm Tues 01/02     Just received an email from the Dept. of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation with a "Cyclones and storm surge checklist" for local businesses. A bit late but I'm sure they feel better!

2:37pm Tues 01/02     She might be scary but goddamn she's beautiful
From the Joint Typhoon Warning Center

2:31pm Tues 01/02      The Arcadia Pub is OUT OF BEER !!!!!!
The good news is that Tommy is bring 5 pallets back on the next barge. I better make sure I get there soon after!!

2:00pm Tues 01/02     Things are relatively quiet on the island. The ferries will stop at about 6:00 pm tonight and while there is a steady stream of cars leaving by barge there weren't many waiting to go on the last ferry - a few tourists and individual old-timers

The most recent BOM update confirms that (at present) Yasi is tracking towards Cairns.

Jeeze, I'm glad I'm not there (or worse, in Yarrabah). I was once told by a senior copper who had just returned from a disaster planning meeting in the city that the Emergency Management Plan should Cairns be hit head-on by a Cat 4 or 5 Cyclone was bodybags!

As it is, it looks as if the Island and Townsville will cop Cat 1 or maybe 2 winds, but let's wait and see. The real concerns locally now are the expected storm surge and then possible 3 or 4 days without power and water.

Both kids are now home from school (and a lot less nervous as a result). It will be interesting to see if they get back to the grindstone before the end of the week.

For now, it's off to get beer supplies for the next four days or so and then to cleanup the esky


Stop Murdoch said...

Hi BT, looks hairy.

Hope it all stays together for everyone in the worst of it.

Thanks for the running blog, good work.

Stay safe.

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