Tropical cyclone Yasi is being described by Reuters as one of Australia’s worst storms in the country’s history . The cyclone landed early Thursday morning and continued to bore inland for 500 miles. The highest winds were clocked at 170 mph or 280 kph. Waves of 46 feet or 14 meters were predicted to bash deep into the coastal areas. No deaths were reported and Australia’s warning systems and disaster preparations being given credit.
The storm, which was the first category 5 cyclone to hit Australia since 1918, has now decreased to a tropical depression, but with warnings that some wind gusts might come up.
The Australian reports that plans were made to pull a total of 75,000 people out of the immediate projected danger zone and that “More than 10,000 people were hunkered in 20 emergency shelters across the disaster zone, not all of them cyclone-rated”. The Daily Mail has the numbers at “hundreds of thousands of people total, in shelters or confined in their homes during the storm”.
In one case, people sought help or shelter but the conditions were too dangerous for them to be helped and they were advised to go to an upper floor of their home. Tens of thousands of people were able to shelter in their homes as the blasting winds passed by. People in lower lying areas were advised to evacuate well before the storm and over 40,000 were moved.
Thousands are expected to be made temporarily homeless and the devastation is quite extensive. But Queensland, a region of Australia that is approximately the size of France and Germany combined, is huge. The area affected by Cyclone Yasi is in the extreme northeast, where there are many sparsely populated areas. The area is the tourist entry to the Great Barrier Reef, a source of much of Australia’s tourist income. The affected region is also a major banana and sugar cane growing region.
One good bit of news was the birth of a baby girl to a Japanese resident and her husband. The baby was delivered by a vacationing midwife at an evacuation center in Cairns.
To give an idea of the size of the storm, the Daily Mail article has a comparison of the storm with the United States and other countries. The storm, at 500 km wide and a stretch of wider activity that goes for 2000 km would have covered most of the US. The eye alone would cover Britain or Arizona. As a reminder, Cyclones are the southern hemisphere’s equivalent of hurricanes.