Heading north out of Townsville

Heading north from Townsville after Cyclone Yasi struck

A friend was remarking at the weekend that it was nice to have a good wind blowing through Sydney after a week of breezeless, high temperatures.

‘That’s not a wind,’ I said, ‘THAT’s a wind’ – and I told him about my terrifying drive into the eye of Cyclone Yasi. Well, it wasn’t the eye, which is always a bit calmer, but into the swirling skirt of the powerful wind that causes so much damage.
I wanted to reach Townsville which was due to be hit by Yasi – as well as hundreds of kilometers of coastline towns to the north – ahead of what had been described as the most dangerous cyclone in living memory. Easy really – just book a flight to Townsville, find a nice hotel, sit it out and send my report to London’s Daily Mail.
That didn’t work. Townsville airport was closed and the nearest was Mackay, nearly 400kms to the south. All right, I decided, I’ll fly to Mackay, rent a car, and drive north. But by the time I set out, the storm was already giving the region a taste of what was to come, with trees buckling and branches being thrown across the road.
But, like that motto for the US postal service (no matter what the weather, the mail has to get through, or something like that), so the Daily Mail had to get through. It turned out to be the most terrifying drive of my life. Trees crashed down behind me, a caravan in a tourist park was bowled over – and so, incredibly was a cow in a field. Torrential rain layered the road with two inches of water which resulted in the car aquaplaning and being blown perilously close to roadside ditches. There wasn’t another vehicle on the road – and even the police had locked themselves in their cells, the most secure part of their stations.
I was desperately trying to calculate – if Cyclone Yasi is 150kms from the coast and travelling at 35kph and I’m, say, 200kms from Townsville travelling at (well, I’d better not confess to that), who or what is going to reach Townsville first?
Suffice it to say, I made it by the skin of my teeth and joined a 100 or so frightened people on the floor of the Holiday Inn (I couldn’t have a room for fear of the windows being blown in) as the cyclone screamed around us.
I thought what had hit Townsville was bad enough. But folks in small towns to the north really copped it. I wish them all the best as they start to pull their lives together.
And would I do anything like that again? Er…no.
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2 Responses to Into the Eye of Cyclone Yasi – Well Blow Me Down!

  1. Brendan says:

    You’re a brave man Mr Shears!

  2. Lawanda says:

    You know what, I’m very much innclied to agree.

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