Stormchaser looks into cyclone's heart

By Amelia Wade

Geoff Mackley. File photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Geoff Mackley. File photo / Glenn Jeffrey

A New Zealand stormchaser has told how he tied himself to a tree, strapped on a helmet and lifejacket then went into the core of Cyclone Yasi to take pictures.

"It was fierce. Three-hundred-kilometre winds were whipping around, pulling trees out of the ground and debris was flying everywhere," said cameraman Geoff Mackley.

"It was wild. It was pretty incredible for about five or six hours."

Mr Mackley and fellow Kiwi photographer Brad Ambrose flew over from Auckland to film the destruction, staying in Mission Beach, which was right in the path of Yasi's eye.

While the 20 other people staying in the resort hid from the category-five storm in the restaurant's kitchen, the two men went outside to capture its wrath.

"We got a direct hit from the cyclone. Mission Beach is pretty trashed, there's just s**t everywhere ... But we were out there walking around."

Mr Mackley has chased about 40 storms across New Zealand and Australia, but said being at the heart of Yasi was one of the most intense experiences he had had.

"This was right up there with the strongest I've ever been in. The doors blew out of the hotel and 300km/h winds were flying through the hotel reception area. We were in there, hiding in a small library off to the side of the main entrance, watching as stuff goes flying through. It was amazing."

The noise of the wind as the core of the cyclone passed over them was earsplitting, he said.

"It was louder than you could ever imagine. Louder than a jet engine taking off. Louder than anything really.

"The rain was also extremely torrential.

"You couldn't see more than a few metres in front of you. The heaviest rain you'll ever get is in a tropical cyclone."

Mr Mackley said he was stuck in Mission Beach because trees had been torn down and were strewn across roads.

"All trees are shredded, you just can't get anywhere, everything's blocked ... The people who were staying in the hotel, they left their own houses in Mission Beach.

"As I saw when I went up in the helicopter, a lot of them have been trashed by the storm surge."

He tried to go up in a helicopter to take pictures of the damage yesterday, but was grounded by an intense thunderstorm following the cyclone.

"We got up, but then the weather was too bad so we had to come back down. Now we're just stuck down here waiting for it to clear up."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 20 Dec 2014 17:45:03 Processing Time: 351ms