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Batten down the hatches

Thursday, 3rd February, 2011

Former local Wanda Metcalf and her son Matty prepare their Cairns property yesterday for the expected arrival of Cyclone Yasi Former local Wanda Metcalf and her son Matty prepare their Cairns property yesterday for the expected arrival of Cyclone Yasi

By John Casey

Former Broken Hill residents caught up in the Cyclone Yasi drama are understandably anxious about the level of destruction they will have to confront.

Don Metcalf, who lives with his family at Smithfield Heights in Cairns, has experienced a number of smaller cyclones since moving to Queensland but "nothing off the scale like this".

"If the estimates are proved correct this will devastate Cairns," Mr Metcalf said yesterday while securing his home.

"We have been warned that a king tide of up to six metres could swamp the entire esplanade in Cairns and leave the local hospital out of action for some time.

"My wife Wanda is a teacher at St Monica's school which is a few streets back from the beachfront and she has been told that the entire lower floor of their building could be inundated."

The Metcalf family previously lived through Cyclone Larry in 2006 which damaged 10,000 homes and caused $1.5 billion in damage. That was a mid-level category four system but Cyclone Yasi is a level five.

"It's the unknown that makes you worry," Mr Metcalf said.

"With Cyclone Larry we were shocked how quiet and still it was and then bang, when it hit the noise was incredible.

"It's hard to believe that Yasi is going to be worse than that."

Mr Metcalf said he had battled hour-long queues at the local service station for fuel and many supermarket shelves had been stripped bare.

"Things like bottled water, tinned foods and batteries were non-existent," he said.

Another former local, Di Andrews, was planning to evacuate to a friend's house when contacted by the BDT yesterday.

"My husband Paul was due to fly back into Cairns from Port Morseby this morning (Wednesday) at 11am, but they shut Cairns Airport at 10am and I don't want to be alone when Yasi strikes," Mrs Andrews said.

"We have been here since 1987 and experienced a few cyclones and even the smaller ones can be frightening, so I am really quite anxious about what lies ahead.

"There are a lot of people here quite concerned but I can't praise the authorities enough, they haven't been complacent and are keeping us informed as much as possible."

Mrs Andrews, who grew up on Metford Station off the Wilcannia Road and now runs a real estate company in Cairns, was also high in her praise for Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

"I think Premier Bligh has done an incredible job during the recent disasters which have hit Queensland," Mrs Andrews said.

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