Backpacking Pensioners travel blog


Tropical Cyclones. The gale force winds can extend hundreds of kilometres from the cyclone centre. If the sustained winds around the centre reach 75 miles an hour there will be gusts in excess of 106 an hour. Such a weather system is called a severe tropical cyclone. These are referred to as hurricanes or typhoons in other countries.

Tropical cyclones are dangerous because they produce destructive winds, heavy rainfall with flooding and damaging storm surges that can cause inundation of low-lying coastal areas. And they are scary.

Category 1 (tropical cyclone). Strongest gust less than 78 miles an hour.

Category 2 (tropical cyclone). Destructive winds between 78 and 105 miles an hour.

Category 3 (severe tropical cyclone). Destructive winds between 105 and 140 miles an hour

Category 4 (severe tropical cyclone). Destructive winds between 140 and 174 miles an hour. Significant roofing loss and structural damage. Many caravans destroyed and blown away. Dangerous airborne debris. Widespread power failure.

Category 5 (severe tropical cyclone). Destructive winds more than 174 miles an hour. Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.

As you can guess, we got the leaflet and even though the cyclones seem to only destroy caravans and no mention of motorhomes, the leaflet was not a lot of comfort.

Cyclone George was a 'high' category 4 and travelling towards Port Headland, which is about 160 miles above us and heading in our direction. Cyclone Jacob was busy much farther out to sea and threatening Christmas Island.

We asked in town about the prospects for Tom Price and were told that as cyclone's travel across country they loose power, by the time it reaches us it will have been down graded in category and be very windy with lots of rain. So totally reassured and ready to listen to every radio bulletin we stored up with money from the bank cash machine, filled up the van tank with fuel and got on site; booking for two nights as it did not seem we would be going anywhere.

Cyclone George crossed the coast about 19 miles east of Port Headland with gusts of up to 170 miles an hour, travelling south. There was a red alert which covered Tom Price and Parabardoo which is 50 miles below us. This means that everything shuts and nobody goes out. The roads must remain free for the rescue and emergency services.

We listened to the radio and some folk in their houses spoke on the phone with the radio presenter. The worst for Port Headland was between 10 pm and 1am. At 11.55pm, whilst one house holder was being interviewed there was a large bang. "What was that said the presenter". "Something hit my door said the householder". "What do you think it was" said the presenter. "I'll find out in the morning" said the householder.

There was nothing else for us to do but wait, so we slept and was aware of gusts of wind rocking the van and rain hitting the roof and sides. Sylvia wanted me to go outside and take some pictures for the blog site. Just as I was ready, she said she did not want me to go as the camera might get damaged. Sorry, no pictures.

In the morning we learned of widespread damage at Port Headland and of the travelling route of George. At 9.05am we were told Cyclone George was downgraded to a 3 having lost some power through travelling inland. Up date cyclone reports were every hour and repeated on the quarter hour. We sat in our van while the intense rain came down. A young lady in a nearby van went to the amenities block in her bathing suit, not a bad idea.

We were expecting George to arrive at about 6pm. As the day wore on George did loose some of its intensity and his course changed to south, south east. Because of this change George past by to the east of Tom Price. Fancy that, and after all of that trouble George went to in leaving Exmouth to come in our direction.

A cyclone drives the wind and rain before it; by about 4pm the wind and rain stopped and the red alert was lifted, but proceed with caution. Although the night had showers, it was much calmer, and so were we.

Waking up on Saturday 09 March, we found a lovely sunny day and blue skies, and learned of a death at a mining camp. We drove the two miles into Tom Price and visited the Tourist Office to learn that Karijini National Park will not be inspected for safety until Monday and the first possible day trip into the park will be on Tuesday. Later we booked on speck with the tour operator and he will phone us on Monday to give an up date. At the supermarket all the milk had gone and the fresh bread, however there was a loaf from the freezer.

As we had had plenty of spare time during the red alert we caught up with some blog entries and spent two hours on the internet before returning to the caravan park. There is not a lot to do at Tom Price other than visit the mine, (not until Monday), or visit Karijini National Park which should be spectacular if we ever get in their.

Whilst listening to the sad news about Port Headland we learn that Cyclone Jacob has left Christmas Island alone and is heading for the mainland, somewhere in the region of Port Headland. Down south, including Tom Price is again on some sort of alert. Hooray. The Coral Coast is also on alert. There is no where to go. If we drove to Port Headland we could not travel east as the road is still closed due to flooding. Port Headland and surrounding area does not seem the place to visit at the moment so we are stopping here and hoping Jacob does not spoil our chances of visiting Karijini.

Sunday. A quiet day, the town is shut and we go for an afternoon walk to the foot of the mountain behind the camp. It is hot, 3.30pm and the sign states the return walk is 4 hours. What a shame we do not have the time to walk up this big hill and take in the stunning views of this area. It is named Mount Nameless which all sounds Irish to me. The aborigines call it Jarmbrumnu which means the place of rock wallabies.

Tonight we have rain for about two hours. We continue to listen to the radio reports and Jacob begins to weaken as it approaches the coast and is downgraded to a 1. People at Port Headland have been working frantically to clean up the mess caused by cyclone George so that there was as little debris as possible for Jacob to pick up and throw at them. The latest news is that Tom Price has been taken off the 'alert' list and Jacob will cross the coast at about 6am. Though down graded, it is not going to be nice to be anywhere near Jacob when he comes in to the land.

It is now Monday 12th. The morning news informs that Jacob will not cross the coast until 12 noon and is loosing intensity and moving east, the wind strength is down to 60 mile an hour. Port Headland appears safe. There have been three deaths during the storm, one of which was probably from natural causes. Two miners died at their camps and it would seem their huts were only built to survive a category 3 cyclone. As it was known George was a high category 4, there is going to be a lot of explaining why the miners were not evacuated from the camps.

The tour operator has telephoned us. Karijini National Park will remain closed until at least the end of the week. George has created upset and sorrow for many people, our disappointment pales into insignificance; tomorrow we will travel north. Today we will put our latest accounts on the blog site and make ready for our onward journey.

Much more information about cyclones can be gained from the Bureau of Meteorology web site

If you would like to view pictures and gain further information about Tropical Cyclone George visit and click onto the link for Cyclone George

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