What Does A Category 5 Cyclone REALLY Feel Like?

Scorpio put up two comments today that I thought had the makings of a terrific (in every sense) thread-starter, so I asked his permission. He agreed, then sent me some images, then some more words, and then – being the absolute gentleman he is – sent me the final product.

This is it.

And, Scorps, as Janice has already told you, writing about this kind of experience is cathartic – and I know Mrs Scorpio is in a position to make sure all of you get appropriate support if needed.

My very best wishes, and thanks.

(Image Credit: Brisbane Times)

This is a brief history of Cyclone Marcia and my experience of it.

Right up to late Friday night, the Weather Bureau were predicting that the recently developed category 1 cyclone would most likely further develop and hit the coast as a category 2 somewhere between St Lawrence and Double Island Point.

Then about 11.30pm they suddenly upgrade it to a category 5 monster. They advised everyone in St Lawrence to evacuate and head to the Cyclone shelter at Yeppoon. I don’t think the idiots at the Disaster Coordination Centre had any idea of how far it was from St Lawrence to Yeppoon (especially in the middle of the night with severe weather already hitting the region), and as it happened, the cyclone changed course, missing St Lawrence by a hundred kilometres and landed closer to Yeppoon.

Talk about asking people to jump out of the pan into the fire. It landed in the Shoalwater Bay area just north of Yeppoon and headed straight for Rockhampton. Because people in the predicted path were expecting at most, a category 2 cyclone that would quickly drop to a category 1 after landfall, (nowhere near as big a threat and less preparation needed) which would not be expected to be overly destructive or dangerous, we weren’t overly concerned. The concern grew as each update came through and it became evident that it was heading straight for us and it was a monster. There was no sleep that night.

As it moved over land, it slowed somewhat and lost some of its ferocity but caused tremendous damage as it moved ever closer to the city. Not long after we started to feel the increasing fury of the wind and vertical rain hitting the exposed windows like bullets (mixed with shredded leaves, branches and even grass) the power went off. All we could do once it hit, was sit tight in a safe part of the house and hope that the house wasn’t breached and explode like a bomb from the wind entering through the breach and blowing it apart. The other worry was the huge Racehorse tree at the front of the house.

This tree had quite a lean towards the house and has been of concern to me as a threat to the house during recent severe storm events. During the cyclone this became more so as some of the gusts, as the eye moved ever closer to us, were truly ferocious and this tree, which towered over the house was bending right over the roof line

I thought we were gone if it let go, which it must with this much force being applied to it. I moved everything valuable and precious away from that side of the house and waited with my daughters (Mrs Scorpio was at work) for the inevitable craaash!

A particularly fierce gust hit the house with a roar. The next thing there was this loud crashing sound over the roar of the storm and we looked out to see a huge branch had broken off the tree and had landed parallel with the front of the house. In the process of falling, it took out two pencil cedars and two palm trees and the foliage just brushed the rear of my daughter’s Suzuki Jimmy.

If it wasn’t for the larger of the pencil cedars holding the branch from rolling over, it would have crushed the car and damaged the house. The top foliage just brushed my neighbour’s vehicle, too. This tree is 2.5 metres circumference at the base and the branch which broke off, would be about 1.8 metres in circumference and when still attached to the tree, towered over my roof line on a two storied house. It landed about 4 metres away from where it broke off.

I have wanted to be rid of it for a long time but I would have had to get a permit from the Council to remove it and we were quoted in excess of $2,000 to have it removed. Beyond our financial ability, unfortunately.

We will still have to pay to get the remainder removed and now, as well as that, there are two towering trees at the rear that will have to have their remains removed. I’m unsure about my relationship with my neighbours at the back and on one side now, as they had quite some damage due to falling branches in their properties from MY trees.

I was doing well for the first part of the cyclone with branches breaking off and landing in the neighbour’s yards, but when the eye passed over and the wind came from the other direction, a pile of weakened branches landed in huge piles in my own back yard with some extras from the next street behind me.

The actual event is terrifying enough to go through, but I think what hits you the most is looking outside and seeing all that destruction and realising that the world as you knew it for so long and felt so comfortable in is now gone forever.

The reminder is there every time you look out your windows or venture outside and go anywhere and see the havoc that is everywhere you go. Footpaths still piled up with broken and shattered trees, piles of water damaged personal belongings and smashed remains of parts of their houses and fences.

Something that helps in dealing with the shock of the experience and aftermath is realising how fortunate you are that you and your family survived at least physically unscathed, and that you didn’t suffer major damage to your house and personal treasures like many others did.

We had no electricity for eight days (there are still some waiting to get reconnected) You get a shock when you find out that your 2-burner gas cooker that was lovingly stored won’t work, but are thankful that a neighbour lends you a single burner and four cans of gas. Fortunately, my neighbour didn’t need it (his solar panels survived and he shared a generator with his brother). We used it sparingly because stocks of pressure pack burners and replacement cans became available the day we got the electricity back on.

The first three days after the cyclone we had maximum temperatures of 40C, 39.5C, and 39C, which meant that the keeping capacity of fridges and freezers was severely curtailed and food was spoiling faster than you could eat it. Once ice was available, it was not very cold, and because so many people were getting it at the same time it was already partly melted and didn’t last very long in your eskys.

The only benefit from the high temperatures was the cold showers weren’t all that cold, but it was murder trying to sleep with no aircon or fans. Night time was weird and confronting to some degree, for when you blew out the candles, it was the darkest of dark. No street lights, no lights to speak of from neighbouring houses, and no moon and star light getting through the thick cloud cover. Scary black.

Over the years, I’ve seen numerous accounts of people who expressed a wish to experience what it is like to live through a cyclone. A few who have done so have recorded that it was a stupid wish on their part and that it was a far more terrifying experience than they ever imagined it could be. All the ones that I have read about have been category 1 or 2 storms. I wonder how they would have handled a category 5 one.

Having been through a number of cyclones previously when I lived in Proserpine and further north in Cairns, I was surprised that, when the eye of the cyclone passed over us, it was still cloudy with occasional mild gusts of wind in between the stillness that is common.

As the cyclone passed over again, the wind gusts increased quite ferociously and then gradually tapered off until when the last of the northern part of the cyclone had passed, we even saw an odd patch of blue sky and the wind dropped enough to allow people to wander outside to inspect the damage. Some stupid people even tried to drive around to gawk but most of the roads were closed due to fallen trees and power poles and lines down everywhere.

The supermarkets in the area were victims of the power failure (over 60,000 premises lost power) and any remaining frozen and refrigerated foodstuffs spoiled and had to be thrown out. Altogether, there would have been many tons wasted. Most households would have lost much of their foodstuffs, and because of the hot conditions after, most fruit and vegetables in households and stores also spoiled.

Two supermarkets (yeah, Colesworth) were able to re-open after a few days with portable power and moderately restock from the north, and the iceworks got up and running with portable power. The demand for ice was huge and there was a two hour or more wait in line at the only two petrol stations for fuel (mostly needed for chainsaws to help clear the fallen trees everywhere).

When you experience something like this, you appreciate it when things get somewhat back to normal and you realise just how much of the comforts and convenience you miss when they are no longer available. Life is full of challenges and this provided the people of Capricornia with one that they are overcoming together by helping each other as best they can.

Good old Aussie mateship!

658 thoughts on “What Does A Category 5 Cyclone REALLY Feel Like?

  1. The first academic analysis of Australia’s “turning back” of asylum seeker boats concludes the policy is a fatally risky, moral and legal failure that is “severely damaging” the country’s reputation.

    The University of Queensland study, which examines all 29 interceptions of boats under the Howard and Abbott governments from 2001, finds while there is no conclusive evidence the policy has saved lives, as many as eight people have died as a result of it.

    The risk of death or serious injury at sea, including to Australian officials, remains elevated with the ongoing incentive for migrants to sabotage vessels in a bid to thwart forced returns to Indonesia or Sri Lanka, the study says.

    “Given the official secrecy surrounding this topic, it is not possible to say with certainty that there have not been further cases of death or injury,” it says.


  2. scorpio6to2

    It should be pretty weakened by the time it gets to Perth but there could be some damn fine storms. Looking at the BOM weather warnings it looks like a whole lot of flooding over a large part of WA from the Pilbara down. It knocked out the Exmouth (?) radar so views of what it is doing currently are a bit “thin” .

  3. Thanks , Ducky..I have bookmarked it and will get into it ron…later on!…I tried it with a file, but it said “file not allowed”…I’lll have to work on it, but it sounds promising!

  4. There goes Iran!

    The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, is reportedly set to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran in April.

    If Minister Bishop’s visit could enforce the mutually conciliatory postures that President Barack Obama and his reformist Iranian counterpart, President Hassan Rouhani, have adopted, that would certainly enhance Australia’s credibility on the international scene and place it in a favourable position for accessing the Iranian market and investing in post-sanctions Iran.


    The blue pills, Amin Saikal, the blue pills.

  5. Text of Paul Grimes e-mail to staff this afternoon –

    From: Grimes, Paul
    Sent: Friday, 13 March 2015 2:32 PM
    To: All Agriculture
    Subject: All Staff Notice: Change of Secretary Arrangements SEC=UNCLASSIFIED

    Dear Colleagues

    I am writing to you to inform you that my appointment as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture has been terminated.

    While naturally disappointed to be leaving the department, I fully accept this decision. In particular, I have agreed that the Minister would be better supported at this time by a new Secretary with a different background and set of policy skills.

    I have enormously enjoyed my time working with you over the past 18 months.

    It has been such a pleasure to work with so many hugely talented and committed public servants on a comprehensive (not to mention challenging!) agenda to overhaul and modernise our service delivery — and to strengthen the overall policy effectiveness of our department, working ever more closely with our APS colleagues in other departments and agencies, our state and territory government colleagues, and with industry.

    There’s still a lot more to be done, but I have the greatest confidence that the many departmental reforms already underway will be delivered successfully, even if there is the occasional implementation bump along the way.

    By far the greatest highlight has been the personal connections I have been so fortunate to experience.

    In fact, the ‘people bit’ of the job is the part that has had the deepest impact on me. I feel truly blessed to have been able to work with such wonderful colleagues, at all levels, across our diverse and widely dispersed department.

    After failing to properly take care of my work and private life balance over recent years, I am planning to take time off on leave for the next few months. Phillip Glyde will be acting as Secretary until a new Secretary is appointed.

    I have every confidence that you will be able to manage the transition to a new Secretary smoothly and that the Department will continue providing strong support to our Minister and the Government.

    Again, it’s been an honour and privilege to work with you.

    Paul Grimes


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