Cyclones in Cairns

Cairns and Far North Queensland are experiencing cyclones every year and Cairns had two major near misses in recent times.

Cyclone Joy

The first one was Cyclone Joy on Christmas in 1991. Joy was sitting as a huge category five system about 120-150 km off Cairns. In Cairns roofs were being blown off and trees blown over. The Range road and I think also the Port Douglas road were closed due to fallen trees, the road south was flooded and Cairns residents were trapped with nowhere to go.

There were rumours that the Queensland government's response was to have several tens of thousands of body bags ready in Brisbane.

Than the miracle happened and for the first time ever did I observe a cyclone that had come closer than 200km to the coast turn away again and Cairns was saved from a massive disaster.

Sadly the authorities ignored the warning and fifteen years later there seems to be still no effective evacuation plan in place (some evacuation centres are subject to flooding).

Cyclone Larry

In March 2006 Cyclone Larry was the first cyclone I ever watch both speeding up as well as gain in intensity. Normally cyclones either slow their travelling speed and intensify or travel faster while loosing intensity. I see this as an indication that due to higher water temperatures there is more energy available to cyclones.

Larry travelled so fast that authorities had only about 24 hours to evacuate people. Luckily that was enough time because Larry's storm surge was threatening only a very narrow strip (unlike Joy) with not too many residents. If Larry had hit the coast only 70 km further north, the situation would have been very different.

Another narrow escape for Cairns.

What Would Happen?

A category five cyclone is expected to cause an over 5 meter storm surge with another 10 meter of waves on top. Now please stop a minute to consider that Earlville and Pease Street are only about 1-3 meters above high tide.

Most of Cairns houses would go under water while 200-300 km/h winds roar outside.

Where would people go, how could they get out in time? Where is the evacuation plan? Is it kept secret because it is useless? Would it not be important for people to know beforehand what to do?

As we have seen with cyclone Larry, we might have less than 24 hours of warning, which might leave only 12-18 hours to evacuate 50,000 to 100,000 people.

Now is the Opportunity to Plan and Prepare

Some people claim the planned 4-Lane Highway would be a good evacuation route. The Impact Assessment Studies states that it is not designed to be one.

A couple of accidents could easily close the whole road (since you cannot just push the cars off over the 1.7 meter high barriers) and tens of thousands of cars grid locking all roads would make it impossible for emergency services to get to any accidents or blockages. The Barron delta could even be already flooded stopping people to even get to the range road.

We have a unique opportunity to give Cairns a reliable and efficient evacuation route. The state government wants to spend half to one billion dollars to build 12km of 4-Lane Highway to Kuranda.

For the same money we can get a tunnel from White Rock to the Tablelands with a rail line from Cairns to Mareeba.

This tunnel can start on higher ground and the spoil can be used to create elevated transport corridors into Cairns.

Rail carriages for passengers as well as for drive on/off traffic can safely shift hundreds of thousands of people in less than 24 hours. Side tunnels or even the main tunnel itself could also serve as reliable and safe short term cyclone shelters.

Let us not waste this unique opportunity to save Cairns residents from the disastrous consequences of a direct hit by a category five cyclone. It's only a matter of when, not if, so let's act sooner rather than later!

Do not vote for Desley Boyle who still refuses to even meet and talk about this option