Sunday, February 6, 2011

An email from the cyclone zone

Throughout Cyclone Yasi's approach, I was terrified for one of my BFF's and her family in Cairns.

She kept us updated via the internet until power died, and you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally got this email from her. (Edited slightly to remove names and places).

Liz Inglis has agreed to me sharing one of her emails with you. She's my first ever guest blogger, so please welcome her warmly.

"I finally got access to my computer today and realised what a lifeline it was during the cyclone.

Thank you for all the messages of support. We were lucky to maintain phone contact (mostly) during the cyclone to let everyone know we were safe.

It has been a harrowing few days and we were the lucky ones, with only minor damage to our roof, and a massive mess to clean up in the yard.

The worst was losing our sewerage system for 24 hours and not realising until raw sewage
started flowing out beside our bedroom!

We started to feel flat yesterday - I think the adrenalin was finally gone - and today was just sheer exhaustion. I can't imagine how people who suffered such major losses must feel.

On the night of Cyclone Yasi, we got the kids to bed at 7.30pm as we would normally. They were pretty hyped, but we read stories and then turned their music up quite loud.

C. fell asleep instantly, but M. took nearly half an hour of pats as she was much more aware of what was going on.

As I was patting her, I heard the croaking of the green tree frog which often resides in C.'s room, where we were all camping. (Bronnie: C's room was judged the safest room in the home, so the whole family camped there.)

We gave M. 15 minutes of sleep before T. and I went in armed with torches to flush him out. The frog happily went with T., and, like the previous two times we had removed him from his hidey hole in between C.'s books, would not get off him.

So T., the frog, and I sat in the lounge room watching the cyclone coverage.

The frog snuggled in to T's shoulder, as we watched  the broadcasts by Anna Bligh and Julia Gillard.

It was the first time we had faced a natural disaster where we felt there was someone leading. Maybe it's just because this was the first cyclone where we still had power. All previous cyclones had been spent glued
to a transistor radio listening to reporters relay information.

We lost power about 10pm just as T. had switched from cyclone coverage to cricket scores, so he was pretty unhappy with the timing.

The howling wind was loud but constant, so we were able to get to sleep.

I awoke at 2.30am when we must have been in the eye as it had gone quiet with just the occasional gust.

I couldn't get back to sleep after that as I was waiting for the other side of the cyclone, which was when we would get the stronger winds. The winds did increase, but not to the extent we were expecting.

Night time cyclones are the worst because you cannot tell what is happening outside and it just adds to the worry.

As the wind picked up, I finally drifted off to its constant howl until 5am, when T. let out a yell.

The frog had returned and decided to sleep on his head! Lucky it picked him and not me or the girls! C.  stayed asleep, but that was it for M.; she was as restless as the wind.

As daylight arrived I saw a large huntsman spider had also sheltered in the room with us.

The news reports told us to stay inside until lunch time, but the wind died down long before that, with just the occasional incredibly strong gust rattling through.

We could hear cars on the highway but we started getting the house back to normal. Most of the day was spent undoing all our preparations.

Thursday night was uncomfortable as a massive thunderstorm came through in the afternoon dumping 300mm of rain and freaking the girls out with constant loud thunder and lightning.

It was then that we realised our sewerage system had failed. When the storm finally stopped during the night the humidity was unbearable, and without fans, very difficult to sleep.

Friday was spent in the yard clearing an enormous amount of branches, and most importantly, fixing the sewerage system.

By late afternoon, we had had enough! We couldn't face an afternoon of work, so visited friends with power
and enjoyed dinner and drinks with them.

They tried to talk us into spending the night in their airconditioning but I was worried about the chooks not
being locked up and (our dog) Tiger, who we had locked in the house.

We went home to discover the power was finally on, but a snake had taken up residence in the chook house.

The snake was dispatched and we had the best night's sleep for a week until 6am when the chooks who had been sheltering under the house awoke.

T. did a head count, and none were missing so we went back to sleep until the girls woke us at 7.30am - a massive sleep-in for them.

The yard clean-up continued today while I washed for hours. We'll have dinner now and hopefully we will all be asleep early.

I'm looking forward to watching some of the coverage on TV. We haven't seen any yet and small black and white images just don't do it justice.

I think the journalist in me is still alive. It's funny, but I still wanted to be out there amongst it just like when I was working in newspapers.

I spoke to another friend who has given up journalism since having children, and she was envious of her photographer husband who was out capturing the news."

This is my friend Liz Inglis's account of her family's experience during Tropical Cyclone Yasi. Liz is a journalist, travel writer, Mum, stylist, editor, public relations consultant, and loads more. She is based in Cairns, and she is awesome, don't you think?
Liz Inglis


Anonymous said...

So terrifying! Living inland in Canada, I can not ever really imagine what the fear of cyclones and floods is like. (The one major disaster we had in my city was a tornado that killed 27, but I was in England on holiday and so have no real experience of what the city went through.)

After what Australia has been through in the last few months, I will never again complain about the snow! I'd much rather a foot of snow in my yard over a foot of water!

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