Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cyclone Larry

Hi All
Cyclone Larry hit Inisfail in the early hours of Monday morning the 20Th of March 06'. I was tucked up cosy and warm in my bed at my mother-law Betty's house in Tarzali. Tony was snoring next to me, and as far as our new baby was concerned, what was all the fuss about? I was very lucky with Mickalee and had about a three day honeymoon period with her, where all she did was sleep. I definitely knew I had a baby after the three days though. I had a very weird sensation after I had Mickalee for some reason it seemed like a dream, I wasn't her real mum and her real parents would come eventually and pick her up to take her home : ). It was really odd I think I will still in a little shock and of course sleep deprivation does strange things to your mind.
The wind got stronger and the rain began to fall at about 7.30 am and as the time wore on the weather got more fierce, we were as prepared as we could have been, as far as cleaning up the yard and securing things went, however things we thought were structurally sound weren't. About an hour into the cyclone the garden shed blew to pieces and was spread all over the lawn, and a few branches came down but other than that we were safe. I am convinced that Betty's stone house was the best place to be. Our windows were bending in with the force of the wind but none of them actually broke. I remember all of us standing at the bedroom window watching things blow past which I now know probably wasn't a good idea. Mickalee slept through the whole thing. The eye of the cyclone passed right over Tarzali and it was really surreal because it was instant silence and the rain stopped, I can't remember how long this lasted for but then it all began again however the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. Cyclone Larry was a category 5 and caused as much if not more damage than cyclone Tracy it was just spread over a much wider area. Rain off the Cyclone caused rivers to break their banks and stranded many people on the side of the roads as they couldn't cross them. Fallen debris caused a lot of traffic hold ups also.
By the way i forgot to mention that Betty has a smallish 3 bedroom house, at the time there was me, Tony, Mickalee, Betty, My mum, Tony's sister and her two brat kids all in this one house. To begin with everything didn't seem so bad, all that had happened at Betty's was few fallen trees and of course the garden shed, so we escaped reasonably unscathed, and we knew the power would be out. We just didn't realise it would be for quite so long. Just be chance Tony had bought a welder/generator over with him to take to a friend, so we got that started, to run the freezer and a light, we had heaps of candles and food and a gas BBQ so we were going to make it through the night. As far as we knew the power would return in the next day or so.................but IT DIDN'T!! The generator Tony had fixed and got running lasted the first day, then decided it didn't want to go anymore. I was breast feeding by candle light at night and suffering with swollen engorged boobs during the day. Usually when power goes out so does the water as there is no pressure pumps to push it through the line, we had water in the tanks but no pressure and no electricity for hot water. So we were filling buckets and heating water on the BBQ for APC'S (arm pits crutch). Two days after the cyclone our power came back on only to be turned off again as the connection lead to Betty's house had fallen down and was dangerous. To fix it we had to call a certified electrician who fixed it then called the power people to come and restore power. This took another day. Don't get me wrong here I am not at all complaining about the service we received from the electrician or the power company. Everyone was in the same position as us and also was with out power. They were doing as well as they could with the man power they had. Some men we spoke to had not slept in two days as they had been busy helping to restore the power. There was also all the SES and other volunteers that worked tirelessly to help others. Two days after the cyclone I was desperate to have a proper shower and as all the other homes in the street had got their power back I popped next door and used their shower to help relieve the pain I was feeling with engorged boobs. We all survived and it something I hope not to ever do again.
With all the excitement of the birth, then the cyclone, we soon realised Tony was due back at work, and we had not spoken to anyone to explain that I was over due and we were expecting a Cyclone. So we got a calender checked the dates and he was actually due back the day I gave birth. The first 3 days after the cyclone we had no phone contact in or out so he couldn't even contact his boss to let them know where he was, or why he was running so late. So needless to say when we finally did get in contact with his boss, he was not happy. Told him all he wanted was an extended holiday, the roads were not closed and not to bother coming back as he didn't have a job to come to! So on top of the cyclone, Tony had no job, we had a new baby, were paying rent on a house in Mt Isa we weren't living in and were basically stranded at Tony's mums house because all the roads heading west were blocked from swollen creeks. Then we got a phone call to tell us Tony's equipment on the fence line had all been submerged when the Gregory river flooded and the funding for the fence was running out. So all in all we had, had a very bad week.
We stayed at Tony's mums and got given some government relief funding from loss of income from the cyclone and the baby bonus from having Mickalee helped us get through. 3 Weeks after Cyclone Larry we packed up everything and started to head home as we had heard along the grape vine the creeks were subsiding. We got at far as the "Norman river" 20k Croyden side of Normanton, the first day and had to turn around and drive back to "The Club Hotel" in Croyden. We had travelling companions who were mates with Tony and combined we had 5 adults a new born baby and 14 Dogs. We also had 1 4WD towing a trailer with a motorbike, Tony's 4WD with a boat on the back and my little Camry. The boys were pleased they got to spend the night at the pub and enjoy a few ales, but I was mad as my new baby was not taking to the breast very well and was waking every hour or so.
The next day we set out again hearing the river had gone down a little more, so we raced back out to The Norman river crossing only to find the people who were camped there the day before had gone and the river was on it's way back up. The boys walked the crossing (which I will add is a known area for salt water crocks) and decided that if they locked the hubs in the 4WD's with all the weight they were carrying we would get across with no problems. I didn't like this idea but also did not like the idea of waiting by the river again for another day. So I hoped in Tony's car with him, put Mickalee's capsule next to me put the seat belt around the car seat but UN buckled my baby in case the worst happened. I will also say this is not the proudest moment of my life or the most responsible thing I have done but I had faith in my husband and our car. He would not have put me or his baby at risk if he thought there was a chance it could go wrong. I am just a pessimist and prepare for the worst. We followed Shaun across the river which we could now see was .8, as he had the trailer and a lot more weight on so he pushed a bough wave up for us. I videoed us crossing the river and have only watched the film once as it makes me want to throw up. Jacko Shauns worker stayed on the opposite side of the river with my Camry.
We drove the last 20 kms in silence and stayed at the "Purple Pub" in Normanton. Later in the afternoon Tony and Shaun left myself Alyssa and the baby in Normanton and went back to see if the river had gone down any and to collect Jacko with the Camry. Our previous luck should have gave an inclining that the river had not gone down but had in fact risen a touch, so the 2 mad bastards decided to cross the river, to talk to Jacko and then decided between the 3 of them that it was now or never. Hooked the Camry to the 4WD with a chain and towed it across the river!! About halfway across, so I am told my car started to float as the flow of the river was very strong so the boys opened the car doors to let water in to help the car sink back to the bridge. I was NOT HAPPY!! All the babies things were in the boot of the car and they were soaked! Books and things I had been given were ruined and all the babies clothes had to be re-washed, when we eventually got home. Tony got the car going again and we all headed out to dinner at the "Albion Hotel" none of us had eaten anything decent all day. I was squashed into a sz 12 pair of jeans as all my clothes had also had a bath, while the Camry was learning how to swim.
The next day we left early as we had heard the "Flinders River" was rising again, crossed it no worries but due to there being a lot of flood plains from Normanton to "Burke & Wills Roadhouse" it was a very slow and steady trip. It took 8 hours to get to "Burke & Wills" from Normanton. Keep in mind our home technically was in Mt Isa because all our belongings were there in the house we were paying rent in but not staying in. When we got to "Burke & Wills" Tony asked me where we were going and I burst into tears and said take me home! We arrived at "Gregory Downs Hotel" at 11.30pm with our entourage!! Jobless and penny less but TOGETHER! We were HOME!!

No comments: