Tuesday, August 2, 2011

6 months after cyclone Yasi

Michele - In a few hours it will be exactly 6 months since cyclone Yasi hit Mission Beach in far north Queensland. When it made landfall, Yasi was a category 5 cyclone with sustained windspeeds of 215 km/hr and gusts of 285 km/hr. It hit just after midnight so our friends spent a sleepless night in their homes and in area shelters. The storm affected inland areas as far as Mt. Isa. While I was out there, we noted that everything was unusually green – they had far more rain the past summer than usual. Yasi is estimated to have caused 800 million in damages. This is far less than if the storm had tracked to the north and hit Cairns or to the south and hit Townsville but here in Mission Beach and nearby Tully the devastation is intense and vast.

One of the most eerie difference between pre- and post-Yasi Mission Beach is the lack of bird songs in the morning. Instead of waking to the lorikeets and cockatoos, we wake to the sound of drills and hammers repairing the neighboring structures. The trees have not recovered enough to provide enough food for the birds. Uncle Larry reports that in Babinda, which is ~100 km north of Mission Beach, he is seeing many more birds than usual this year. As the trees recover, the birds will return. The flightless Cassowary is really struggling with the loss of habitat. The rangers are putting out fruit in feeding stations to help the population get by but there are reports of more deaths on the road as Cassowaries are coming out of the rainforest to look for food.

Damage to houses ranges from blown out windows, to ripped off roofs and walls. The house between our old place and the beach had their roof ripped off. The Elandra (fancy resort up the road from our old place) has part of their roof ripped off. Several of our old neighbors went up the Elandra for shelter during the cyclone. One caravan park is closed and many rental places are undergoing work. Because of the construction and because locals are renting holiday units while their homes are fixed, it is a bit tricky to find holiday rentals in Mission Beach. Well, the affordable ones at least.

The damage to the rainforest and area trees is truly heart wrenching. The Shrubbery restaurant in Mission Beach no longer has any. Without any canopy in the rainforest, the sun is drying out the floor and forcing changes to the fauna. Robin’s former teacher reported that her property now has mahogany gliders where it was too wet for them pre-Yasi. The trees are now leafing out and recovering. Because the trees were often stripped of all limbs, many of them look like the curly ends of toothpicks with the leaves sprouting right from the trunk. All the trees look quite Dr. Seuss-like in their tortured shapes.

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