When Cyclone Debbie struck Airlie Beach at 1pm on Tuesday March 28, 2017 no-one knew the amount of havoc that it had wreaked upon homes, commercial buildings, fences, trees, power poles and street signs.
Those that braved out the storm and stayed in their homes were scared beyond belief and still seem dazed and shocked at having lived through “the most terrifying day of their life” as one person described the terrifying event.
The description of the sound as being like a freight train roaring past would have been frightening enough for the 30 hours that the residents endured the effects of Cyclone Debbie. Coupled to that the sound of sheets of metal, breaking glass, fence pickets and cracking tree branches all picked up and whirling around in a frenzy, slashing their houses in this violent storm would have been unbearable.
Residents huddled in their homes in tiny rooms, shaking in fear from witnessing the bowing glass of their windows ready to crash in on them at any minute, rain teeming through holes in their roofs and walls caving in around them. Those in lower lying areas watched the water level rise higher and higher and destroy their precious belongings in the hours to follow.
One couple I heard about stood for hours linked together on one chair in a room that had an electric current running through the walls, water pouring through the roof and rising water on their floor.
Many people that I have spoken to refer to blocked drains and the rivers that ran through their buildings, destroying floor coverings and furniture in its wake.
After the Cyclone’s violence subsided, the heavy rains tumbled down. 800+ millimetres fell in just one night. The incessant loud rumble of thunder, the crashing of the lightening as it struck the ground just metres from their homes sent shock waves through the community again.
The residents remained in their homes as power and running water was cut off. The running water was restored 5 days after the drama; power is now fully restored 18 days after the Cyclone.
10 days after the Cyclone, the amount of green waste was one story high in front of a number of homes in our street. The council team meticulously collected this rubbish, cut it up and carted it away to the collection area where it is being mulched.
The mulch pile I have nicknamed the great Pyramids of Airlie. Our footpaths look so much better now.
Random acts of kindness have brought out the best in our community. A local Hairdresser offered complimentary hair shampoos and blow waves to the community for one whole day during the time that the water and electricity was cut off. Cyclone affected restaurant owners who can’t re-open their businesses at present due to the damage lending their undamaged equipment to fellow restaurant owners so that they can continue to trade. Neighbours who housed fellow neighbours during the Cyclone whose houses were damaged still cooking meals for them now that they have been able to return to their temporarily repaired homes.
So many business owners have continued to support their staff to ensure that they do not have to dismiss any of their valued members. When they have been so adversely affected financially, it would be easy to let some staff go but they have shown great strength of character and are deeply committed to restoring the community spirit. I am proud of my Whitsunday Community.
And now as time has passed, I am noticing that the Council clean-up is continuing every day, even on weekend days to ensure that the Whitsundays is as pristine beautiful as it has always been. That, although people are under a great deal of stress, kind words of support are being heard all around town.
The Supermarkets have replenished their stock; the Nurseries have fresh herbs and vegetable seedlings for sale. Most businesss have re-opened.
The weather is divine. We are experiencing bright hot sunny days and I have noticed that our trees and shrubbery have new growth. Our beautiful Whitsundays is recovering.
Yesterday, Easter Sunday, Barry and I enjoyed a delicious long Italian Lunch at one of my favourite restaurants in Airlie Beach, La Tabella and was delighted to see Lennie and her wonderful Staff all still happily working together as a team. Lennie commented that she employed 20 staff and had been so worried about her staff in the 2 weeks that they were closed but had managed to keep the team together. The gorgeous Chris was only too happy to take care of us with a smile on his face and a kind word as well as a professional table service.