TC Steve Direct Hit on Cairns Report

Compiled from email messages

Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 22:13:46 +1000
From: Desley Absolon <>
Subject: aus-wx: News from 'Cyclone City'!!

Hi Everyone,

Would have loved to be in contact sooner...but no power and big mess...meant much work first!!!!
Yep Steve visited us in a big way.. I live in Brinsmead, 10 minutes from the Cairns Esplanade and almost directly in behind Yorkeys Knob, and Machans Beach on the coast and in an almost direct line with Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands. A local's version of events is as follows:

Last Saturday, as you all know we were advised that a Cyclone Watch had been declared for the area Port Douglas to Cardwell as there was a low of 1000 hp sitting east of Port Douglas. Local reports suggested that this wasn't expected to deepen but was expected to move towards the coast with a little wind and plenty of rain.......

First official notification via media was at 9.00am Sunday when Cyclone Steve officially came into being. "expected to continue to move in a westerly direction towards the coast and to intensify".

By lunch time 1pm on 27/2 Steve had a central pressure of 983 hp, winds to 130km and was moving West @ 15km. So Cat I and deepening. We were advised that Gale Force winds were expected on the coast around 4pm. Cairns weather at this stage was .... boring!!! Overcast, no wind to speak of and very little rain. In fact in my general phone around of friends, etc - no one much was even aware of the possibility of it crossing the coast. General consesus was that it would change course and head south..and anyway it was Sunday..and why bother about 'a blow' until tomorrow anyway?? After all we had Justin and Rona and they didn't interupt the Cyclone Parties of the day so why worry?? Advices were coming hourly by this stage. Cairns Port Authority were on yellow alert - all small craft to be moved to safe moorings in the mangroves way up in the Inlet. Council Counter Disaster Centre was being set up, live talkback radio had well and truly commenced emergency coverage...and the locals...WERE STILL JUST WAKING UP THAT THIS COULD BE REAL!!! We, being very organised little veteran north queenslanders had our water bottles full, the bath full, gas bottles ready, emergency room organised, food, and other bits and pieces all stacked and ready to go. (In Cyclone Joy and Justin, the water was the first thing to go - some hours before the destructive bit, as debris stuck in the pumping bits in the rivers stuffed up everything - long before most people were ready).

At 2pm Steve was 90km ENE of Cairns moving West @ 15km and had deepened to 980 and was now classified as Cat II with winds to 140km at the centre. Still Cairns weather was very non-cyclone!! My husband decided that now was a good time to put the front walls on our almost completed backyard his raincoat...using a buzz saw....we have a building company...what can I say ??? Port Authority on Red Alert - all small craft should be at safe moorings. Large Craft sent to sea! I collected my mum from her unit, after grabbing everything that I could from her patio and open garage and putting it inside.

4pm: Steve was 70km ENE of Cairns moving West @ 15km still with a central pressure of 980. Winds still at 140 but expected to intensify. Even at this stage the BoM would not commit to a time or exact place of crossing the coast..just somewhere between Port Douglas and Cairns. 5pm: Still no wind..and very little rain...In my experience in Nth Qld, if there is no wind and no rain..the cyclone has changed course and moved in another direction...this is what 'us experts' figured........felt really stupid grabbing pets and locking them away inside, removing plants, garden furniture, wheelie bins, etc,etc...when the day seemed perfectly normal for Cairns for this time of the year. My barometer hadn't even done anything terribly dramatic. Figured we would wait until the 6pm report for the 'all clear'..............

6pm: Steve was 55km ENE Cairns moving West @ 18km with a central pressure of 975 - winds to 160km/h - this was getting serious!! ...and (what can I say) downright exciting!!! It was expected to cross the coast sometime between 7 and 8pm somewhere near the northern beaches of Cairns and was still intensifying.......and we still had no wind and just a little rain.....there was the odd gust that you would have ignored at any other time but took a little more notice of under the circumstances..but this was really nerve racking as the damm thing was sitting on our front door and we had no idea what it was up to....except that it was possible that Steve would keep intensifying and there was talk of Cat III !!!!!

Then Steve arrived....nahhhhhh Steve barged in with no warning.............By 6.15 the wind was up around the 40-50 km/hr...we went outside just to see what it felt like as we live in a 200mm masonry block home and these cut the noise heaps..yep..the trees weren't liking it real much but it was okay... Around 6.30pm the power went out....battery powered radio kept us in touch with talk back radio and live crosses to the weather bureau, etc. At 6.35 - the Radio went off the air....very 6.45pm we were experiencing wind like I have never seen in my life.....In all the other cyclones that I have experienced the wind grew steadily stronger with heavier gusts, till you got to the eye, and then obviously things were calm, till the wind came back from the other direction.....not with Steve....someone who rang in to talkback - on another station later on in the evening likened the winds to a dentist removing a tooth.......just twisting and raging from all directions at once with tremendous force. By 7pm we had decided it was time to seek shelter in our safe room away from the huge pieces of glass in our windows and doors....just as we were about to move....the wind calmed down.....we went through the eye for about 30 minutes..hard to you don't think about your watch too much!! - but the wind didn't die down completely like it did with the eye of that instance - the sun came sky,etc...and then back it came - obviously that was a bit easier in day light too...with Steve it was just a decline of the horrible strong stuff...then we got the rear end of the cyclone...not as much strong stuff in our area but some parts of Cairns - Caravonica, Redlynch, Yorkeys Knob..experienced as much after the eye as before. We had torrential rain with the tail ...but not as much as predicted for us..we recorded 245mm at our place..but not really acurate as the gauge sort of kinder had it's post knocked about...up until 7.00am Monday morning. After that things just sort of calmed down and we finally went to sleep at around 11pm. Green Island recorded wind gusts to 170 km/h and the bureau has now admitted that Cyclone Steve crossed as an unofficial Cat III based on that even though they suggested just prior to the crossing that it had lessened in strength to around 150km...Steve intensified once more. Officially Steve crossed the coast at Machans Beach and headed on up to Mareeba and across the Cape to the Gulf..and we all know what he is up to right now....

No power until late Monday afternoon...some areas were without power until today (Friday). Not a real lot of structural damage - the pub at Trinity Beach on the hill lost it's roof, the Yacht Club on the Inlet lost it's roof too....generally a lot of damage to houses through trees falling on them...Hu-mungus amounts of damage to vegetation. Mareeba copped huge amounts of rain with major damage done to their rail lines, when the rail bridge was washed away and the line washed 50metres down stream to wrap around the road bridge - it is now closed until engineers can check it out!!!

We lost 8 large trees in our back yard and have spent the last two days cutting everything up and carting it out to the front where the council will do yet another Cyclone Clean Up - third year running.

We went up the Kuranda Range to Mareeba today - we have a house under construction up there - no damage to our block walls - couldn't believe it!!! Anyway - the damage to the rain just unbelievable - if I can get back up there I will take photos and hopefully post some of them for you....if I can work out how to do that...not being particularly computer litererate!!

The Kuranda Range road is open to only vehicles under 5 tonne and this is being heavily policed as one lane of the road has completely gone at one has just disappeared over the side.....I have never seen such damage on such a wide scale..guess the rain forest will recover but you can really see where Steve moved inland.

Lots of really large trees have been uprooted around town - if any of you have been to Cairns - the really giant fig tree on the esplanade opposite McDonalds - she's gone Luig'......the whole root system is out of the ground ..tourists were having their photos taken - little Japanese ladies were shorter than the root bowl!!!

We have recorded the wettest February on record for Cairns and people are saying that is the reason for the damage - this however does not account for the amount of trees that have been sheared off 5 - 10 metres above the ground!!! Official rainfall figures for Manunda - a suburb close to us - 1462.7mm for February....Bartlefrere: 3376mm for the month - 10 foot of rain!!!!!!!!!! Where's the ark!!!!!!

Hope you found this interesting...we certainly did!!!
Desley...with webbed feet...and slightly ruffled feathers in Cairns

Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 16:00:48 +1000

..As an addition: I went for a drive out to Trinity Beach today..a small block of takeaway shops - maybe two or three businesses are closed through damage...quite spectacular damage to their roofs and facades, with iron peeled back - will make a great pic..will go back out tomorrow. These shops are right on the Esplanade only inches above sea level and took the full force of Steve.

Things are getting back to normal up here with the locals starting to complain about the huge piles of vegetation amassing on the footpaths around the city. Vermin, unsightly,etc,etc...the Council just can't do much more however - they are flat out - local authority budget for street clean up alone has been set at $600K with talk that it might rise to $1million. (Justin cost only $400K). Bearing in mind that we have been really pruned by cyclones for three years gives you some idea of the amount of damage done in what was a very small but intense cyclone.

Best wishes


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