Wednesday 2 February 2011

Heads down

Good grief, Queensland is copping it again. Cyclone Yasi, category 5, is about to reach the coast, and the meteorologists are using words like catastrophic, severe, dramatic, incredible, devastating, atrocious and deadly plus predicting 300kmh winds and a 2m coastal surge.

They're comparing it with Cyclone Tracy in Darwin on Christmas Eve, 1974: I've seen the photos of that in the museum there, and stood in the dark in a little room and listened to the recording of the wind made by Father Ted Collins as his church service was swept aside by the storm. There was a warning on the door: 'The sounds you are about to hear may upset people who can remember Cyclone Tracy' and I saw some people turn away, still traumatised thirty years later. The airport anemometer broke at 217kmh, but the wind speeds were estimated to have reached 260kmh - so it's chilling to imagine what Yasi is going to do in places like Cairns.

I've been there too, and sat in the dusk by the Esplanade swimming beach (an artificial one, because the sea alongside the real one is full of marauding crocs) watching people using the free barbecues, lolling in the water under the fountain and the metal fish, being relaxed and sociable as an astonishing cloud of fruit bats came from behind the city and flew overhead out across the bay to a headland where the mango trees were in fruit.

It's a cheerful place, full of young people and tourists, neat and well-kept along the waterfront where people jog and watch the birds, its marina full of swanky boats. Hard to imagine how it's going to look in just a few hours' time. Hold tight, people.

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