Cyclone Marcia – Rockhampton Queensland Australia (Part Three)

Posted on Sun 03/01/2015 by

3


THE DAY OF THE CYCLONE

On the morning of the Cyclone, that fateful Friday, after I turned on the computer, the only thing I was looking for was information, all of it on the now approaching Cyclone.

At 8AM, outside, it was almost eerie. Totally still, not one breath of wind at all. I recall an old adage, the calm before the storm, and this was what I was immediately reminded of.

I went to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) site and brought up the images for the nearest weather radar to us. This is the link to that local radar site, the Gladstone site, which is at the centre of the screen. Up and left of Gladstone, you’ll see Rockhampton, just inside that first circle. To the North of Rockhampton and right on the Coastline, you’ll see Williamson Ap. This is an unoccupied Military air base, used for deployments in what is a Military Training area around Shoalwater Bay, which is that large bay you see there closest to that airport.

I could distinctly see Cyclone Marcia and it had just made landfall near that Williamson airport, which is around 100 Kilometres from here, and almost due North. The eye was perfectly formed and the system looked to be fairly wide and from the cycling of the 4 images, spaced ten minutes apart was definitely rotating, in a clockwise direction. The image below is a copy of the radar image of the Cyclone as it made landfall.

TropicalCycloneMarcia

It was a scary thing to see, and I’ve seen a number of cyclones on this site before, but this was scary because I knew it was coming straight at us.

The next, and by far the most important thing I wanted to know was the information about the Cyclone, and that is located at the tab below the screen image where it says Tropical Cyclones. When that came up on my screen, I clicked on TC Marcia, and there was all the information I needed to know. It showed the projected path of the Cyclone, the speed it was travelling, and the wind strengths, shown in circles around the core. I knew that as soon as these things make landfall, they decay, sometimes quite rapidly, so even though this was (supposedly) a Cat5 system, the BOM had it decayed to Cat3 by the time it was supposed to directly upon Rockhampton. As they proceed across land, the speed also slows, marginally anyway, so I was confident that by the time it arrived where we were, it would be nowhere near Cat5, because Cat5 virtually ensures almost total destruction of virtually everything.

I needed to know all this information early, because I knew that the power would be going off soon, and the more I knew, the more prepared I would be.

The cyclone was travelling at around 30KPH, (almost 20MPH) so, the time now at 9AM, this meant it would be directly over us here in Rockhampton at around 1PM, as it slowed slightly and decayed. (He says, hopefully)

I looked at the eye of the Cyclone and calculated it to be around 20 to 30KM across, also an important thing, because as the front edge of the eye approaches, that gives me a rough time as to how long the eye would be directly above us, and at that speed that would mean around 40 minutes or so.

Outside the wind was now picking up, with the gusts becoming longer and of a higher speed. It got progressively worse.

At exactly 10.41, the power went out. As that happened, I heard a loud report, similar to a clap of thunder for a lightning bolt that strikes almost where you are, a loud crack as opposed to an explosion sound. This was most probably one of the high tension circuit breakers on the power pole closest to us, on the corner of our street, barely 75 metres from where I was sitting. Somewhere close, a tree had fallen across power lines, and the resultant immediate reverse current blew that Circuit breaker, isolating power to everyone in our vicinity. I know it was 10.41 exactly as I was in the middle of replying to an email from my good friend Bob, who lives in Stockton California, who was emailing me every half hour as the Cyclone approached. By now, the wind was howling, and in fact getting stronger.

Now we just had to hunker down and wait for what was to come.

Two things were important now that the power had gone out, and they were access to information and contact with the outside World.

WallPhone01

The telephones we have, while connected directly to the landline are rechargeable battery phones, so you’re not constricted by the lead when you are on the phone, and without power, they were no longer operational. However, still having a landline, I hoped that at least the connection would still be working. My good lady wife was probably thinking the same thing, as behind me she opened the cupboard and found an old wall phone (pictured at left and again below) we had kept. It was 20 years old, and heaven knows why you keep something like that, but thankfully, we did. I unplugged the existing phone and internet lead, and plugged in this old phone. It was so wonderful to actually hear a dial tone when I picked it up. So now, we had contact with the wider World.

National Panasonic R-247JB

National Panasonic R-247JB Transistor Radio.

 

Access to information was also good as I have a battery operated Transistor radio, a National Panasonic R-247JB, the one shown in the image at right. I have had this radio from new, having purchased it as a young Airman in the Royal Australian Air Force way back in December 1968. It sits on my desk beside me, and has for virtually all the time since I have been out of the Air Force. It is used on a daily basis, and for sometimes anything up to 8 hours a day. It can only receive an AM signal, but that’s OK with me, as all I need it for is to listen to it for the News and the Cricket all Summer. It’s a mid to upper range Transistor radio, and works as well right now as it did when I first turned it on more than 46 years ago. It takes 3 D Cell batteries, and even then, I would get around five to six months out of a set of batteries. The reception is perfect to this day

The local ABC radio station, the one I always listen to was keeping us all informed as to what was happening, so we did have some access to information outside of what we could see for ourselves.

The wind was now getting stronger and stronger. The rain was solid, and how do you explain how solid it really was. It was horizontal, and in the form of a white swiftly moving cloud. It was so opaque, I could not see the cream coloured Colorbond metal fence of the home directly across the street. Above the roar of the wind I could (only occasionally) hear the crack of a tree branch as it broke, but at no time did we see any debris near our home. Occasionally I would go to another room and look out to see the trees in nearby homes, when I could see them that is, but while bending and some with missing branches, none fell even near us.

My good lady and I sat in our room here and looked out that window. Directly in front of us, at the perimeter of our home, we have Golden Cane palms, and while the fronds were now horizontal, none broke off at all, and while the many canes swayed, none of them broke. Those canes are (relatively) soft to saw through when they need cutting, they are around as thick close to the ground as your upper thigh is. We have two clumps of them with around 15 tall canes in each clump. They swayed, but they held.

Just when you were thinking that the wind could not get any stronger, it did. By Midday to half past it was howling furiously, but still there was no debris at all.

Then, at 10 to 1, it just stopped dead, from the most furious howling to nothing at all. This was obviously the front edge of the eye of the Cyclone now passing directly overhead. It was so eerie to see. The rain had stopped. There was not the slightest breath of wind, and it looked for all intents and purposes like a normal clear day.

I waited five more minutes, and still nothing.

My rough calculations would now pay off.

I went outside and onto the front street and looked back at our home. There was nothing on the roof, and no visible damage anywhere that I could see, and no debris close by. I walked the 75 metres to the corner of our street, and looked up and down Alexandra Street, the main thoroughfare through our suburb. I could see downed trees, but there were more still standing than there were down. There looked to be no power lines down, and no readily visible damage to any of the homes nearby. I did not want to be outside for too long, so this was a cursory look, taking in as much as I could. I walked back and stood directly in front of our home and did something I have always wanted to do, to look up at the sky directly in the eye of a cyclone, something I may have wanted to do, but had never thought I would get the chance to do, and really, something I hoped I never would have to do. I was somewhat disappointed really, as I expected to be able to see a clear blue sky directly in the eye. I didn’t see that at all, just a typical overcast day. That led me to believe that a Cyclone must have something like a trailing cone extending from the ground point back up behind, and following it, which really only stands to reason.

I went back and walked around our home quickly to see if there was anything in the way of damage, but other than some bent bushes, there was no damage whatsoever. I went back inside, and I was only outside for just on ten minutes. I told my good lady wife the good news that we had no damage and then sat back in my chair and waited.

At around 1.30PM, the wind started back up again as the trailing edge of the eye now passed over us. It went from dead calm to furious wind in virtually seconds, but this time, the wind was nowhere as strong as it was on the approach of the Cyclone, which, in a way was comforting, if that could be said at a time like this.

Again, those rough calculations I made earlier that morning came into play. The Cyclone was now decaying pretty rapidly I guessed, and as it was moving directly away from us, I thought we would only have its effects for another three hours at most.

By 4.30PM, all we had were some sporadic gusts of wind, and this frightening event was effectively now over.

While we still had light, I went out and checked just our home, and there was no damage at all. We had lost a couple of bushes and one of our Bottlebrush trees was bent over, but not broken. We had no debris at all in our yards. I looked around and while a few trees in nearby homes had come down, or lost some branches and significant amounts of foliage, there were more trees standing than there were which had fallen.

We had survived, and in fact, survived quite easily really.

Now it was just life without electrical power that we had to look forward to.

The radio kept broadcasting throughout, and reports of major damage were coming in from all over the local area. Preliminary reports said that there was no power at all in the city or the suburbs, except for the hospitals which had their own power. We listened exclusively to the radio now, well, because that’s all we had.

Communications were vital. We phoned our daughter, and her family and their home had also escaped any major damage other than some flooding underneath their home. They lived in a suburb not three miles from us, but it is an older suburb, with homes dating as old as 60 or more years plus, and in fact, only one home near her had lost its roof.

WallPhone02While we had a dedicated landline with an old and operational phone, all they had were their mobile phones. We spoke with her once during the event, in the quiet of the eye of the cyclone and twice later, one as the winds almost ceased, and another time later into the night.

We did however receive incoming calls from family members in all parts of the Country. My 84 year old Mother called from 600 miles away to ask how we were, and we spoke for twenty minutes or so. Both our sons also called during the afternoon as the cyclone’s intensity was decaying as it moved away. I also received 2 calls from my sister who lives in Canberra, almost 1800 miles away and my brother who lives on the Gold Coast, 600 miles away, as well as a call from the second of my three sisters, and she also lives on The Gold Coast.

While we had survived the worst of this intense weather event, and remained unscathed, probably now came the worst of it, the long wait in the stifling heat without electrical power, and that highlights specifically how much we have a total reliance upon ready access to a reliable and constant supply of electricity.

While information was key here during this event, ingenuity would now have to kick in.

It would prove to be a long wait.