An account of Cyclone Debbie (Cat 4) 

We arrived in Hamilton Island on Friday morning to fine weather and an expectation of departure on Monday afternoon.

Stayed at the Reef View hotel on the 3rd floor with ocean view to the front from out balcony and hill views behind.

Our daughters went to the kids club on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning allowing my wife and I some time to explore the trails up to Passage Peak  and also to have some chill time by the pool with a wine.

Despite seemingly excellent weather conditions flights out were cancelled from Saturday afternoon onwards.

Sunday morning brought stronger winds but nothing to be concerned about, in fact I questioned why flights were not still running, that was until I ran the trail up to the resort lookout at about 200m elevation and nearly got blown over. 

Monday as cyclone Debbie approached from the NE was still reasonable, the rain had obviously increased but I went swimming with my 4 year old daughter twice throughout the day, even a s late as 4pm. We then proceeded to eat at the buffet amongst a flurry of activity as staff ran around clearing tables and chairs way. cyclone Debbie had taken a turn to the south and was now barrelling straight for us. A code red was issued that night and all day Tuesday we were expected to remain in lock down in out rooms. 

I awoke on. 4 am on Tuesday to very strong winds and rain which continued all day but really intensified around 9-11am. 

According to to sources there were gusts up to 263km/hr. 280km/hr would have kicked it into a Cat 5 rated cyclone. The major problem this system is it was so slow moving, only 6-8km/hr whereas previous large systems in NE QlD usually move along at 20km/hr minimising th exposure time to destructive winds. We also had the bad luck to be on the southern side of the cyclone and also just south of the ‘eye’ which meant we sat in the ‘eye wall’ for a considerable time.

We had the luxury at the hotel of being on generator power an thus had power throughout. We lost Internet and tv around 11.30am. 

We watched as golf buggies were overturned , trees flatted, entire hillsides defoliated, roofs stripped off buildings. It was an impressive site. And a little scary, particularly as our windows flexed repeated as gust whipped around the building.

We felt lucky to be in a large concrete, cyclone rated hotel! 

Our cyclone packs we’re woefully inadequate for gluten free options and thus my dietary aims went out the window, the rest of the family just got hungry. They would be more than adequate to keep you alive however….which is their purpose.

Our two young girls 4 and 1 respectively had no interest in the storm and merely got agitated with being confined to a small area, and that proved  to be our greatest challenge.

The following morning (wednesday) we awoke to strong winds but probably only gale force. The view from the balcony was of a disaster zone. The most striking observation was the island itself once tropical green and verdant appeared stripped and naked to the bare rocks 

After breakfast in the lobby with what appeared to be everyone else on the island we took a stroll to the marina as did many others, to check out the devestation. 

By noon, still without phone or Internet the sun came out. TV is back on and all footage so far appears to be from the mainland, and of a lesser extent than the damage here, perhaps given the lack off comes there has been no way to distribute the footage?

Word is that they want all guests off the island within 24hrs, that suits us but information is hard to come by. We are unsure if it will be by plane or boat.

Ex-Cyclone Debbie is now heading south, so we should get back to Brisbane just in time to receive her there!

I think it will be a few weeks until the resort will be back to full capacity, indeed they are not allowing people onto the island for at least the next week. The island itself probably won’t look the same for about a year as the vegetation regenerates


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