Strong winds began blowing yesterday on Point Danger, the headland that is shared by two Australian States - New South Wales and Queensland. Would it be followed by a cyclone as strong as Katrina? We had feared for days that it could be, even though this would have been a very rare event indeed.
These girls had big trouble keeping hold of their belongings as they stood on the viewing platform above the Point Danger Marine Rescue Station. It was very difficult for me to hold my camera still.
The Bureau of Meteorology put out a warning for damaging winds, abnormally high tides and dangerous surf on the exposed coast. Seas further out could be 'phenomenal'.
For the past few days we've been nervously watching a cyclone the intensity of Katrina wending its way down the Queensland coast in our direction. It is true that such storms generally diminish as they come south. This one however, seemed to be maintaining a deal of its strength for a lot longer than usual.
News services have been tracking Severe Tropical Cyclone Hamish as he played with us, lurking just off the coast. He moved relentlessly southward for a thousand kilometres , threatening to cross to the land, bringing destruction with him, even though he was still offshore.
Hamish strengthened to Category 5, softened to Category 4 and then strengthened again to 5. Right now its still 300 km away and down to Category 3.
We watched reports as towns battened down, thousands were evacuated from danger areas, and gale force winds wreaked their havoc. Idyllic tropical islands just off the coast have been badly damaged.
I bought a new torch and some masking tape for my windows. Just in case, mind you.
Tropical cyclones don't often get as far south as the North Coast of New South Wales, but with the weather and climate change being what they are, you can't be sure. Normally we'd shrug our shoulders and get on with life, knowing that most such storms dissipated before they became our direct concern.
However our weather has been erratic lately, to say the least, producing such record catastrophes as the Victorian bushfires. Hundreds of kilometres of land in the northern Gulf country have been under water for two months now, with farmers isolated and dependent on fodder drops.
There was even an almost unheard-of earthquake this week, not far from Melbourne. I like to look on the bright side, but ...
So when the winds strengthened and waters churned into white horses yesterday, we couldn't help wondering.
I took myself off to Point Danger. I could see that Duranbah, the beautiful beach below me, had already lost much of its sand from an abnormally high tide, and the waves were angry. Clouds were swirling.
To the north, on the Queensland side of the border, I could see some of the crowds watching surfboard riders valiantly competing in a carnival at Snapper Rocks, regarded as one of the more sheltered surf breaks.
Everyone knew that the competition was likely to be cancelled at any time soon.
This afternoon the Bureau updated its gale warning south to Point Danger, saying south-easterly winds to 34/45 knots were expected to whip up seas and swell to three and five metres. Our direction.
It also said that Severe Tropical Cyclone Hamish was expected to slow down and gradually weaken.
9am AEDT 13th March 2009
It seems that the extent of the oil spill had been underestimated by the captain of the ship responsible for the event.
More than 60km of the world famous Queensland tourist coast have been affected by thick oil washed up on previously pristine beaches. The area has been declared a disaster zone as cleanup teams moved in yesterday as the extent of the damage became obvious. Workers are looking for affected wildlife.
So far the spill has affected the beautiful Moreton Bay and its islands near Brisband and, further north, Bribie Island and parts of the Sunshine Coast.
Big seas, the legacy of ex-Tropical Cyuclone Hamish are hampering efforts and spreading the oil.
8am 12th March 2009
Well, it seems as though we have the last laugh. Hamish became Ex-Tropical Cyclone Hamish late last night. We're left with the seas he whipped up, together with a high pressure system that came from the south to join him. I'll wander down to the shore today to survey the scene and take a picture or two.
This shot of Snapper Rocks was taken from the same spot as the pic above, but this morning after Hamish and the high pressure system had done its work. You can see there are still surfers out there! The sea has taken over the vantage point of yesterday's watchers. (Sadly my camera is acting up, with the shutter stuck on this one.)
The swell was up today, certainly.
And this was the bar of the Tweed River nearby. Crossing anybody?
3pm AEDT 12th March 2009
Bad news. It is now becoming clear that a 20 tonne oil spill from cargo ship just off Brisbane yesterday has created damage to beaches at the near-pristine Moretan Island, and on the mainland a little further north. A reporter from the Australian Broadcasting Commission says there is oil on the sand 'as far as he could see' on Moreton Island (see below). Volunteers are looking for affected wildlife.
ABC TV photo
The spill occurred when the ship's cargo of 31 containers of ammonium nitrate spilled overboard in rough seas caused by Tropical Cyclone Hamish. One container pierced the ship's fuel tanks on the way into the sea. There is no sign of the containers or the chemical, which is presumed sunk.
Pardon me if I ask: What Next?
Are there cyclones where you live? I've never been in one, and I don't think I want to be.
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