I’m writing this on a wet and very windy Cairns evening. We’ve had 40 knot winds along our coast today, with a gale warning issued by the Bureau of Meteorology. It’s being driven by an unusual combination of weather – a wet north-westerly air flow higher up in the atmosphere. and a wet south-easterly at lower altitudes. And it’s very rare to have gale force winds in far north Queensland when there’s no cyclone in the neighbourhood.
Ooops. Sorry for using the “C” word! We’ve only had to use it once this wet season – when cyclone Oswald came out of the Gulf of Carpentaria in January and hit western Cape York Peninsula. Oswald was a “little fella” – a category one that did some damage around FNQ, but did its worst much further south as a rain depression. And Oswald was a traveller. He made it all the way to Sydney.
It’s been a below average wet season in FNQ, and the forecasters reckon we may have seen the last of the monsoon. It seems we’ve made it through the wet season without a major cyclone. If you’ve never been through one, count yourself lucky. Cyclones are about the worst thing nature can throw at you. We usually know they’re coming several days ahead, so there’s a long time in which to prepare and worry. The event itself is terrifying, with real risk to life and property lasting for hours. It’s the worst form of sensory overload, and when it’s over, the ordeal is really just beginning. It’s time to clean up, repair and rebuild, start again. That can take weeks, months, years, and in the early stages, you’ll be without so many of the things we take for granted – power, phone, ATMs, the Internet, shops, water, roads. It’s a challenging time, and poses real risk to your emotional well-being.
Thankfully, these days, there are people and agencies expert in helping us recover from natural disasters. And they tell us one of the best things you can do is to talk to each other – tell those cyclone stories. It might not be easy at first, but it gets easier and it does help make sense of the disaster you’ve just been through. And it helps others who’ve been there too, and can help people prepare for next time, especially people who have yet to experience a cyclone.
And let’s face it – cyclone stories can be amazing tales of the power of nature, of courage and the resilience of the human spirit. The Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville is about to put on an exhibition about cyclones in our part of the world – and they’d like your help.
If you’ve had first-hand experience with cyclones, tornados and other “big blows”, they’d like to hear from you. The exhibition will tell the story of how these fierce weather events have shaped the lives of North Queenslanders. The exhibition will look at cyclones that have affected North Queensland over the past 100 years with a focus on how the community has prepared for, lived through, cleaned up and counted the cost after each disaster. The Museum is keen to gather stories, photos and memorabilia about north Queensland cyclones since the early 1900s.
Listen to exhibition curator Robert de Jong talk about the exhibition and how you can help make it an authentic telling of an important north Queensland story.
Can you help? If you’d like to contribute to the tropical cyclones exhibition contact Robert de Jong on (61 7) 4726 0652 or by email: email@example.com.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has details of Queensland cyclones back to the late 1800s at http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/history/eastern.shtml
And general info about cyclones in Queensland at http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/about/eastern.shtml
There are some amazing cyclone stories in our radio documentary series Remembering Larry. Cyclone Larry hit FNQ in March 2006 – one year later, people took time to reflect on the region’s first severe cyclone in 20 years, and the lessons we learned.