“It’s starting to blow a bit”

If I was living in Queensland I’d be starting to wonder who I’d annoyed.

After much of the southern part of the state was declared a disaster zone earlier last month thanks to some of the worst flooding ever seen, northern Queensland is now facing it’s own disaster – Cyclone Yasi.

When I was staying in Innisfail, about an hour south from the state capital of Cairns, my friend Marty talked a lot about Cyclone Larry, a tropical cyclone which hit the region in 2006 and did a huge amount of damage to farms, houses and towns.

It pretty much decimated the banana, paw paw and mango industry, snapping trees at their bases and taking out millions of dollars-worth of crops in a matter of minutes. Many farmers were forced out of  business and some of the ones I met were still trying to get back on their feet.

Paw Paws in Innisfail

What’s scary is that Cyclone Larry was a category 4 hurricane. The latest one, Yasi, is category 5.

According to meteorologists, storms and winds of up to 160mph are going to hit north-west Queensland for ten hours within the next few hours (from 11am GMT). There will be an hour’s lull as the storm passes over, then another ten hours of storms will follow.

The cyclone – described as the worst in a century –  is expected to hit at high tide, causing 7m surges in low-lying areas. It’s so strong it’s expected to move up to 300km inland and force rains southwards across a state which is already saturated. The state’s premier, Anna Bligh, said the cyclone’s impact is going to be more life-threatening “than any experienced in recent generations”. Ten thousand people have moved to shelters, those that haven’t have been told to stay in their homes.

Yasi is predicted to hit the coast very close to Marty’s place, where he farms barramundi with his wife Linda and children Harvey and Emma.

Marty
I managed to get hold of Marty on Monday, when he said things were “hectic”. He’s just sent me a text message which says: “It’s starting to blow a bit now”. I assume he’s the master of understatement.

Having spent so long in the region, it’s hard to imagine how the largely wooden, stilted houses are going to stand up to such ferocious winds. Having seen the landscape, I know the majority of crops don’t stand a chance.

Etty Bay
Fingers crossed everyone manages to stay safe. Thinking of you.

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