Cyclone Yasi: Like the thunder of hooves

By Amelia Wade

Yesterday, the Herald reported how Kiwis were hunkering down as Yasi surged towards Queensland. Amelia Wade reports on how they came through.

Wellington man Rush Pathak hunkered down on the outskirts of Cairns as powerful winds whipped around the house he was sheltering in.

"It wasn't so much of a howling wind, but more of a deep, deep roar of wind and that was the power behind it. You could hear it circling around and coming around.

"You could hear the trees in the forest rustle and shake and snap. Then before you knew it, it was at the house.

"I don't know if you've ever heard thoroughbreds coming around the racetrack, you can hear them from a distance, and [the cyclone] just roars past you with that deep thunderous sound of hooves."

Mr Pathak said everyone in the house was on edge as they anxiously waited for the mammoth storm.

They knew it was coming but all they could do was wait for it to hit, he said.

"It was a waiting game and it was kind of concerning because you knew it was coming, you knew it was here, then you hear this sound from a distance on its way over.

"Then suddenly it's over you and there's these massive trees in your yard and they're cracking, they're snapping, they're swaying.

"Swaying in ways they shouldn't be swaying ...

"It's incredible that Mother Nature has that sort of power."

He said he returned to his house yesterday morning to find only a few broken windows, a broken fence and some trees which were broken or uprooted.

"We were really lucky that it wasn't anything too major."

WEATHER KEEPS CHURNING

Cairns resident Angie Quinn said the storm was so noisy it sounded like there was a helicopter over her house.

"I actually went to have a look outside, because I thought there was a helicopter hovering over my house.

"I heard one guy say on the radio that it sounded like there were 10 jet engines in his house, and it was exactly like that. You could not believe how horrific the noise was unless you were in it."

She said there were moments of calm in the storm which were eerie and unnerving because she thought it had finished, but then it started up again.

"We all just spent the night in the garage, waiting for it to pass."

Mrs Quinn said every road in Cairns had fallen trees on it and she had been without power since midnight on Wednesday.

"Trees have knocked out the power and we have no idea when it will go back on, but we think it'll be anywhere between 24 to 48 hours.

"But all our phones are slowly dying, and my daughter's laptop is almost out of battery.

"My sister in Yeppon has been taking pictures of the news on the TV and emailing them to me so I know what's going on."

Last night she and her family were braving an intense thunderstorm.

"We now have this torrential thunderstorm which is incredibly intense," Mrs Quinn said.

"I have two teenagers and they're both staying in the room with us because it's pretty scary."

'WE REALLY DODGED A BULLET'

Blair Whittaker, from Kawakawa, stayed with a friend on higher ground after he was evacuated from his house near Cairns' CBD.

"We really dodged a bullet here. It could have been really, really bad. But we were lucky, very lucky.

"There was nothing wrong, the power stayed on and everything so no stinky fridge."

He said he was glad he did not need to survive the cyclone in one of the chaotic evacuation centres.

"They lost power so they were stuck in the dark and the heat. They were stuck in that all night in the shopping centres with blocked toilets and all the stench which goes with it."

Despite waiting nervously for Cyclone Yasi to tear over them, he said it was very anti-climatic.

"It started blowing a bit, but then we just fell asleep. It was over in an hour and we'd been up all day so we were very tired [and] just fell asleep."

He was grateful his house was not damaged and said he still felt bad for the people further south "who copped the worst of it".

"We were lucky. For us it was just an everyday storm."

'PLEASE JUST GET IT OVER AND DONE WITH'

Sandy Beckett spent Wednesday night hoping the storm would pass as quickly as possible.

"You were just thinking, 'Please pass quickly, please just get it over and done with as soon as possible'. Thankfully it wasn't that bad but there are still trees ripped out from the ground."

The former Auckland police officer said his house was vibrating as the worst of the cyclone passed over their Cairns home.

"You could feel it vibrating right to the foundations. Our house has a steel frame which means that if you get any vibrations, you can feel it through your whole house."

The winds were the worst part of the storm and left a trail of destruction in their wake, he said.

"The winds were extremely loud and there are trees down all over the place. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was still bad enough here. The dog was freaking out."

He said there was debris across the road and some trees had been ripped out of the ground.

"It's odd. Some of the trees have no leaves and were torn to shreds, but then trees right next to them were completely fine."

Mr Beckett was still without power last night, as was the rest of his neighbourhood.

"There are lot of people who are in the same boat. We're all like this, we don't know when it will go back on."

LOCKING OUT THE STORM

Megan Waitai and her family in Townsville are still without power and do not know when it will be restored.

"We lost power really early on. When we lost power it was really windy and you kept thinking it was going to come back on, but it didn't. Once it was gone, it was gone.

"We're hoping it could come back on soon, but we don't really know for sure."

Ms Waitai spent Wednesday night locked in the bathroom with her family as they waited for the cyclone to hit.

"It was really hard being locked up in there because there's not a lot of space. And it was hot and dark and we couldn't see outside.

"My young son wanted to sleep in his bedroom on the very night that you can't sleep in there. We also had to keep him cool, so we had to keep opening and closing the window.

"When we opened it you could hear the roar of the winds. That was the most scary thing, the noise."

She said it was a very restless night for everyone as they tried to keep the children calm throughout the storm.

"I didn't get much sleep last night. It was really loud because of the winds, we didn't get much rain but we got a lot of wind. I was very relieved we didn't get a lot of rain. Sometimes the kids would get scared but you just had to tell them that everything's going to be all right. Luckily it was."

BREAKFAST AT YASI'S

Kiwi Matt Thompson said life returned to normal remarkably quickly and despite a bit of debris on the road there was not much damage.

"We went to bed at 3am and got up at 5am to check the damage, but it all seemed fine so we just had breakfast at a cafe ...

"Shops opened up the next day if they weren't damaged. Everything just went back to normal.

"It's almost as if it didn't even happen."

Mr Thompson spent Wednesday night on the third floor of an apartment building in Cairns.

He said the worst part was the anticipation of the storm after hearing the warnings of what was on its way.

"We were sitting there for hours with nothing to do because everything was closed so we were just waiting.

"It's good for it to finally have passed, that's for sure."

There was a huge sense of relief in Cairns that the storm had passed and was not as lethal as anticipated.

"We're just lucky that nothing was seriously damaged and there are a lot of relieved people out and about ... They reckon it hit the best place possible, the best of a bad situation, because it hit the least populated part of the coast," he said."

Mr Thompson mentioned that he had recently bought a new boat and checked on it first thing yesterday morning.

"I'm just glad it's okay. It's brand new and I hadn't even taken it out on the sea yet, so I was just hoping it hadn't blown away or tipped upside down and broken."

He said his workplace made it optional for staff to return to work today so those who have damaged homes can repair them.

"But I'd say most of us will be going back."

- NZ Herald

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