Fingers crossed

cyclone2.gif

You tend to get a bit complacent about cyclones after a while. We get one or two cyclone watches most years, but they seldom come close enough to do any damage. Fortunately, large ones have a very tight centre, so that really destructive winds don’t extend over all that large an area, and they have to hit bang on a population centre for something really nasty to happen. That’s one of the reasons Darwinians were so unprepared for Cyclone Tracy in 1974. There had been a couple of cyclone watches earlier that wet season that came to nothing, and everyone thought Tracy would be a false alarm too.

Cyclone Ingrid’s progress to date encourages a similar relaxed reaction, but I’m certainly not going to treat it that way. It hit some fairly unpopulated coastline near Lockhart River in North Queensland a few days ago, and was described as “crappy” by some moron storm watcher who presumably hasn’t experienced a big one. And it skirted past Nhulunbuy on the NT’s east coast early this morning, giving them a dose of strong but non-destructive winds.

Currently Ingrid is heading due west at 20 kilometres per hour, parallel to the coast. But the worrying aspect is that winds near the centre are a frightening 320 kilometres per hour. The strongest winds during Tracy were around 240 kph. Darwin houses built since Tracy are engineered to withstand a Category 4 cyclone (i.e. one like Tracy), but not a category 5 like this one. Our house is only built to pre-cyclone code anyway, and Jenny and Rebecca’s place at Aralia Street is right on the ocean and would be several metres under water if the eye hit on high tide (there are king tides at the moment, which makes it potentially worse).

News Online headlines its current story “Ingrid heads to Darwin“. I hope not. Its current track would take it about 100 kilometres north of here some time late tomorrow, which would be uncomfortable but no more. But it only takes a slight southwards kick to put Darwin right in Ingrid’s path. And a cyclone that size would destroy a significant part of the city, despite the much-improved building code since 1974.

Tonight supermarkets here are packed as people stock up on tinned food and batteries. And the weather is overcast, oppressive and not a breath of wind. I just rang Jenny and Rebecca, and I’ll go around there in the morning and help them stow away things that might become projectiles, and tape up the windows.

It all sounds a bit melodramatic really. I’m hoping I read this again on Monday morning and think I was just a goose who worried unnecessarily. But a storm that size isn’t something to take lightly.

8am Sunday – Ingrid is still tracking directly west (see image) and has weakened very slightly (290kmh), but still much stronger than Tracy. At this stage it looks like we’ll just get gale force winds tonight (unless it veers to the south), but nothing too destructive. The Tiwi islands will probably cop a severe battering though.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Alert but not alarmed, Ken! Seriously, I hope the weekend passes quietly and untraumatically for you and your family – and Darwin too of course.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Second Rob’s sentiment, Ken.

Of course, I can well remember the Cyclone that hit Brisbane in 74 (it does happen – but very occasionally) because we got a week off primary school. We were living at Kenmore at the time, nearish to the river but on high ground. It was a tribute to Brian’s methodicalness (if that’s a word) that the house I wanted him to buy in Jindalee in 73 when we moved from Indooroopilly wasn’t the one chosen as he’d taken the care to check out the flood maps from the huge flood of 1896.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

good luck Ken. I just rang my brother who lives in Darwin and they have decided to go down to Katherine for a few days. Hope everything turns out ok.

C.L.
2022 years ago

Ditto. All the best Ken. Remember St Vitus, patron of storms.

Mark – didn’t the ’74 flood also end up causing various former Archbishops to start floating around the crypt of St Stephen’s?

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

C.L., I don’t know that story but I do remember going to the Cathedral one day for the feat of Corpus Christi when Dr Rush was Archbishop (god rest his soul…) and in the middle of the Holy Hour afterwards when a storm was raging and buffeting the whole church he remained perfectly still kneeling at his prie-dieu in front of the Blessed Sacrament. So despite the weird conversation I had in the confessional at St. Stephen’s one day about 15 years ago with a priest of the Cathedral where he found it relevant to tell me that he’d had a vision where his blood stained the host as a martyr, I prefer to think of the ghosts of past Archbishops as rising above any flooded crypts…

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

The feat of Dr Mannix… the feast of Corpus Christi…

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

The feet…

New bloggers’ rule: do not post comments on the second bottle of wine for the night…

Jim Steel
2022 years ago

Echoed sentiments from above.

I was in Innisfail for Winifred in ’86, a big one (cat 3 I think) but not like Tracy or potentially Ingrid. I was only 8, so bizarrely I have only fond memories. Hiding downstairs looking out through taped windows. Finding a good pair of plyers that had flown into our backyard. Finding a 2m tree from our front yard 100m away with only a hole to show for its original location. The park down the hill turned into a lake by the storm tide. The local catholic church without a lid for 6 months.

Geoff  Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Stay safe mate.

Irant
2022 years ago

When lived in Japan one typhoon hit the city where I was in. Damage was moderate but it was freaky to experience. Hope that the worry comes to nought, Ken.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Mark, hate to disillusion you but I think we wriggled out of the Jindalee house which we had verbally committed to because your mum fell in love with the one at Kenmore. Good luck really because the Jindalee one went right under, by a couple of meters.

If any-one drives from Brisbane to Ipswich, look for a pedestrian bridge over the road at Goodna. People were hopping from that bridge straight into boats.

Take care, Ken.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

CL the water came over Queen Street down at the GPO end, so yes, I expect the folk at St Stephens may have had to wade about a bit.

Niall
Niall
2022 years ago

Our most favourable thoughts are with you and Jen at this time. We sincerely hope the storm passes without drama.

Nic White
2022 years ago

Ingrid is crazy. It just walked through NQ like it didnt exist. Didnt it get downgraded to a category 3 before it even hit the QLD coast? How on earth does it go through several hundred km of land and become a category 5going over the gulf? Does not make sense.

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

stay safe fellas/sheilas of the top end

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Brian, of course I was very young at the time so my memory’s pretty hazy!

Hope all’s ok in Ken & jen land tonight – this didn’t sound too fabulous:

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,12531576-2,00.html

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Yup and all’s well. And everyone abed, but me, because I told jes i would wait till the cyclone went past before I went to bed. That was before I knew that the reports come every three hours 2am! I’m not doing it but I’ll wait till maybe 1am so I’m not a liar and hope the storm keeps moving so that it will be norht and just west of Darwin by my expert calculations.

The way we view a cyclone is an accurate trope for the way we view most things. Parish looks at all the readily available information and makes an assessment. I look out the window and go outside and look at the sky down the beach. A single brain cell is ample.
Then….
the intellectual and the amoeba go to watch the weather at the Beachfront Hotel. We drink black beer and watch the kids play safe in the park.
Life is good.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

And no work tomorrow! Life IS good.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Good to hear, jen – have a Toohey’s Old for me tomorrow!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Yep, it was a squib, thank God. A bit blowy through the night and a wet couple of days ahead. But the wind’s dropped now, and we haven’t even lost any tree branches let alone trees or damage to the house. This is almost always the way it is with cyclones, but then there’s the one that actually hits. So you can’t afford to take them lightly.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Have they done anything in Darwin with reference to building codes in the case of cyclones? I remember hearing some guy from North Qld saying they’d all be sweet now because they had to be conscious of the threat when building houses. But not something I know anything about.