Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cyclone Yasi: Preparing for the worst

The appearance of Cyclone Yasi was not a sudden thing - it was a big storm that weather-watchers were keeping their eyes on for maybe a week before it formed into an official Tropical Cyclone.  And although its projected track changed by a few hundred kilometres over the course of BoM tracking, it was pretty true to the predictions, especially when most cyclones are characterised by their zippy unpredictability.  As a result of all this, we had plenty of time to get prepared for the massive storm that was bearing down on North Queensland.

The town was buzzing even on the weekend, but it reached a fever pitch on Tuesday.  Andy and I went into work in the morning, and I got absolutely no work done.  I talked to lots of people about the weather, visited the ATM so we had plenty of cash on hand, looked at the Townsville City Council storm inundation maps, and realised that even though we live a few kilometres from the coast, we were likely to flood if the conditions were right.  So we ended up leaving uni by lunch time so we had plenty of time to get our unit ready.

We went into Reid Park and tried to fill up some sandbags, thinking we could make a barrier on both doors and maybe the garage roller-door, too.  That way, if there was less than 50cms or so of water in our area, we wouldn't get it inside the house, and our couch and carpets would be saved.  We were met with a bit of chaos - they were out of sand, and out of bags, and there was no one around who looked like they had any clue what was going on.  More sand arrived pretty quickly, and Andy started helping fill sandbags for an elderly couple, and I carted them over to their car.  While we were doing that, more bags arrived.  In the blink of an eye, the vultures in the crowd snapped up 1000 bags and we were left with none.  The woman we'd been helping felt bad for us, so she snavelled a few from someone with a very big stack.  In the end, we filled up 10 sandbags - any more than that would have probably over-worked our little Subaru, anyways.

We also set about handling food that wouldn't last if the power went out for several days.  For dinner, we emptied the freezer of spring rolls and sausage rolls, we used up the mushrooms from the fridge, and threw some wedges on the side for good measure.
We blended up a few bunches of bananas generously given to me by Dee and BoaB, and filled the dehydrator to make fruit leather. Andy took the campstove out of storage, where it has sat, unused, since we bought it a few cyclone seasons ago.  He wisely suggested that we should figure out how to use it, and if it even worked, before we desperately needed it.

We went to bed that night a bit early, anticipating a poor night of sleep on Wednesday, since the cyclone was predicted to cross the coast overnight between Wednesday and Thursday.  We were abruptly awoken at 2.45 by a succession of three text messages from the QLD government, telling those in storm surge areas to evacuate by 8am on Wednesday.  We got up, checked the forecast map - Yasi had been predicted to cross just north of Cairns when we went to bed, but by now it was moving progressively south, and was to cross at Innisfail.  Then we tried to get back to sleep.  At 5.45, I was awoken yet again, this time by the Townsville City Council - "You are in a storm surge area and will be doorknocked by 9am if mandatory evacuations are required".  That was enough to wake me up for the day.  We decided that we would stay at home, unless we were evacuated.  I started pulling in all the plants from outside.

We harvested all of our climbing ceylon spinach and moved the biggest planters to the wall.  Our courtyard never looked so clean!

We checked in with our neighbours, and filled up plenty of water containers.  We had about 60 litres at room temperature in these jugs, but smaller bottles filled up the freezer.

At 10am we set up the sandbags in front of the front door.

And inside the back door.

By 11am, the rain started with a vengeance.  It didn't end up sticking around for too long, and ultimately we didn't get much rain from the cyclone, but it definitely marked the start of the storm.

We taped crosses over the windows.

We wrapped up our important stuff in plastic bags.

Then we took everything off the shelves, and walls, and put them into our cyclone containers

(after Nacho vacated, of course).

And then, we waited.  We were bunkered down, and as ready as we could be.  We kept a close eye on the BoM site, listened to the radio, and listened as the wind picked up.  At 5.30, we lost power.  And that is where I will return in another post.


Susan said...

Gaaahhh...It must have been so scary. I was so lucky during the floods here that our house was high and dry. The footage of the cyclone on the news was frightening... I could not imagine bunkering down and waiting for it. I am so glad you are OK!

Vaala ◪ said...

It sounds pretty frightening...

Dee said...

You are now a true north Queenslander. It was a terrifying night. We had it good tucked up inside a solid unit in the city. The house id fine but I am glad I wasn't in it. Lost the lemon myrtle and no more bananas for awhile :(

Hannah said...

Theresa, you've written this in such a way that I actually felt nervous and on-edge, despite knowing you're okay and that the storm wasn't as horrific as people feared.

Honestly? I kinda felt like I was reading a part of the Tomorrow series. Can't wait for part two, even though I feel a bit guilty for saying that... I'm so impressed with how well you prepared/coped!

Millie said...

I feel for you guys right now. I always keep a large food supply for moments like these. a food storag has food & water to sustain me for 9 months and I also have on hand a 72 hour emergency back pack filled with everything from food, water, medicine and survival gear in case we need to leave our home. We always try to be prepared for these types of moments. Unfortunately no matter how prepared you may be, there's always something you need to get at the store. you may want to check my other blog:

to get more infor on how to keep and mantain a food storage. You can also check our church website for great tips on this also.