Thursday 3 February 2011

Cyclone Yasi - Category 5 - the most powerful cyclone in Australian recorded history

People hearing about the massive cyclone Yasi hitting Australia have been wondering if we are OK.  Well, Carole Anne and I are quite safe here in the largest inland city - in fact the only major inland city in this whole country.

[Note: I added that descriptor in italics after a local friend corrected me when I somewhat carelessly noted in the first version of this column that we live in "the only inland city."  She said "Canberra is not the only inland city in Australia. I think the people of Dubbo, Orange, Goulburn, Alice Springs, Kalgoorlie, Toowoomba, Mildura, Ballarat, Broken Hill, Shepparton and Mount Isa (to name a few) would be upset to think they've been ignored!!"   

Well, yes, I do acknowledge this, but it really depends on one's definition of a city vs. town I suppose.  One could take a look at the map and population chart of AUS here as illustration of what I'm talking about.  Canberra has 350,000 people and the others are, comparatively speaking, much smaller cities or towns, mostly in the eastern inland areas.  I have really enjoyed visiting some of those smaller places mentioned above, including the one in the "red centre" - Alice Springs - which is like driving from the east coast of the United States to somewhere in the middle of Nebraska to finally arrive at this town - but with not much in between!]

The eye of this Category 5 Cyclone Yasi is 1500 miles (2440 kilometers) away from where we live in Canberra - a 36 hour drive if going there, straight north, by car.  We live eight hours drive from the very south part of AUS and where the cyclone's eye is hitting now is about eight hours drive from the very northern part.  Many people don't realize how huge this country really is.

Yet the total effects of THIS cyclone are almost as big as that massive "Snowpocalypse" simultaneously hitting most of my friends and family members scattered all over parts of America.  Watch this time lapse!

But, this is the THIRD cyclone to hit Australia in 5 DAYS time! (The first one hit over near Perth in Western Australia, and the second one hit Queensland further south and can be seen in that time lapse just ahead of Yasi.)

Though cyclones are par for the course in Australia, Yasi is the strongest cyclone in the recorded weather history of this country - MUCH more powerful than Hurricane Katrina ever was.  Wind speeds upon landfall of the cyclone are expected to reach nearly 300 k/hr (about two hours away from now) and it is expected to smash storm surge waves 20 to 25 feet high directly into houses perhaps dragging the waves even a kilometer or so inland in low lying areas.  Some houses will be tossed like cardboard boxes.  All the power lines in the most strongly affected areas are expected to come down.

Anyone not in an emergency shelter is quite likely to lose their life - and in spite of extensive warnings over a couple of days to prepare for the "worst case scenario", as I type this now at 11:50 pm it was reported on television by the Premier of Queensland that six elderly people, widely regarded as fools who stayed behind to "protect their apartment house" though repeatedly warned are now calling for help but it is TOO LATE!  Even the emergency workers have been commanded by the authorities to "bunker down."  As I close this out, it has been reported that huge shopping malls utilized as emergency shelters to house thousands of people each are already reporting being cast into darkness - even though "full force" is still two hours out and the strong winds will be felt for about TEN HOURS!

This is all part of the effects of La Nina off the coast of Australia where the waters are now much warmer than usual.  It's gonna be a loooooong hard night in Northern Queensland while the southern part of that State has already got a long recovery ahead of it from massive flooding from torrential rains over the past month.  Water water everywhere...our dams are all full, even here in Canberra.



  1. Here is a good photo collection of the cyclone damage:

    Thank God there was no (known) loss of human life from Yasi although there was likely a huge loss of wildlife (birds and other animals.) Lots of trees down, leaves stripped bare, cane & banana crops laid flat, which was to be expected, but property damage less than expected. Cyclone Larry took out the unsturdy structures back in 2006. I suspect the buildings are better built to code now in Queensland compared to New Orleans or Orissa in India, and there was superb preparation & communication. The main reason for no life loss is that evacuation occurred in good time and most towns were extremely well prepared when Yasi hit. Once again this proves how difficult it is to predict the damage a cyclone will cause, despite how it looks on radar. It was disappointing for the media as they were all promised that this was to be the big grand daddy of all cyclones, but things held together better than expected and mercifully the eye did not hit a major population centre - thank God!

  2. Photo/story of the aftermath & frustration involved:

    One man found dead as result of the cyclone effects - asphyxiated by generator fumes: