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.