It’s Thursday the 3rd of February, 2011, the day after the biggest Tropical Cyclone that Australia has ever seen, hit the coast of Far North Queensland.
Living in the tropics one becomes accustomed to the fact that every wet season brings with it, the high possibility of a tropical cyclone.
On Monday the 31st of January we all started to become aware of impending Tropical Cyclone Yasi which was still a large Low system sitting off the coast of some island but quickly heading our way.
There was a lot of talk and publicity of the unprecedented size of this cyclone, and the very real possibility that high tides simultaneously coinciding with the cyclone making landfall would cause widespread flooding and storm surges.
With the flash flooding in Central and Southern Queensland still fresh in my mind, and, as any responsible resident of North and Far North Queensland, I started to search for a storm surge map from my local council.
Comfortable enough with the internet, I started by looking online at the Cairns Regional Council website, which appears at first glance to be comprehensive.
However, after much painstaking yet futile searching the only storm surge maps to be found on the Cairns Regional Council website extended no further north than Palm Cove.
How can that be? It’s officially the wet season and we have been amalgamated with the Cairns Regional Council for two years; surely there is a storm surge map for the tourist mecca of Port Douglas at least, even if there is none for Cooya Beach, Newell, Wonga Beach, Mossman or Daintree.
But alas no there was no such storm surge map for any areas north of Palm Cove on the Cairns Regional Council’s website.
Ok the local phone book, it’s been a while since I used a phone book, the internet is the place I search for anything and everything these days, but I do recall the maps printed inside the centre of the phone book and they definitely have the storm surge map for us.
Well they used to; the last couple I happen to have in the house are post amalgamation. Obviously the Cairns Regional Council is so stretched for cash they cannot afford to print it in there anymore, why else would they take something so important, out of a resource that even a 73 year old granny would have easy access to.
By Tuesday the 1st of February, the ante is upped in the media, the large looming Low has been named Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, and I start to make all the important preparations for a cyclone, including once again setting out to finding a storm surge map.
This time I call an astute friend who by some miracle knows that the online maps are currently being updated by our council and not available on their website.
Apparently, the only place to see if I am in a low lying area, subject to flooding, is to go to the council offices in Mossman, or the Library either in Mossman or Port Douglas.
Well that’s great if I can get there in my lunchtime I will, but what if I can’t and what about the rest of the Douglas residents, how are we all going to make our way to these places at some stage in the next 24hrs?
Ok, I think to myself, there has to be another way, I am not a complete idiot, I use social media I will #shoutout online and see what comes back.
Great an instant response, I love that about the net, its from another council further south, but wait they are directing me to my local council. No good – I tell them why, but thanks for being more helpful than my own council.
Awesome it is another instant online response, this time directing me to the Queensland Police Page where at last I find a storm surge map, not only for Port Douglas but also for Cooya Beach, Newell, Wonga Beach , Mossman and the Daintree.
The map is hard to read it appears to be a photocopy, but its better than nothing, I think I can make out my street but I am not sure. Hang on, this map looks familiar, it has the old Douglas Shire emblem in the corner, its the map from the phone book you know the one that gets delivered to every residence in this area.
By early Tuesday everyone is full on in cyclone preparation mode, the local supermarkets are busy, the shelves are getting empty, there is no masking tape left anywhere including the hardware store in Mossman, and I am still asking everyone I talk to and see in my workplace if they have a storm surge map of the area we live in.
Preparing your property for a cyclone of the magnitude they are predicting Yasi to be takes a long time. I don’t want to act in haste and panic during the cyclone, so I need to know if I am in a low lying area , I need to plan where to go or so I keep getting told, but no one can show me a readable map by Tuesday afternoon.
It’s late on Tuesday when I next get an opportunity to continue looking for a storm surge map online. It becomes quickly apparent to me that lots of other people need to see a map of where they live too, and they are asking anyone and everyone online.
One of the messages I see has a sense of the upmost urgency and it’s to the Queensland Police Service, it looks like this@QPSmediaWe need storm surge maps for Port Douglas and Daintree region. There is none available on the CRC website#TCYasi1:02 PM Feb 1st via Twitter
By Tuesday night a responsible Port Douglas tourist organisation has posted a link online of storm surge maps for our area, so I breathe a sigh of relief. But wait they are on posted on a social network site I don’t use. So more precious Tropical Cyclone Yasi preparation time is taken up signing up online to a site I am unfamiliar with just so I can see if these crucial maps.
Lucky for me I can navigate around these things ok, I get signed up and I get to view the links. Well what do you know, they are the old Douglas Shire maps from the phone book, but they have been enlarged and I can at last clearly see my street.
By Wednesday morning we hear it is the biggest monster of a cyclone ever. The authorities want us to be where we are going to stay for the duration of the cyclone by midday.
It’s about the same time I notice that Cairns Regional Council have actually placed a storm surge map of Port Douglas and surrounds online.
Thank you Cairns Regional Council for adding to the grief and anxiety of Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi. In online terms
Author’s Note: Port Douglas has NOT been seriously affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasi. There is no major structural damage to any buiilding and the vegetation that has been impacted is being cleaned up quickly. On Friday the 4th of February, the majority of Port Douglas retailers were open for business, with only a few exceptions.
Our thoughts go out to those south of Port Douglas who have been affected and suffered during Tropical Cyclone Yasi.