Praying for loved ones up north
AS the Daily News was put to bed last night, Warwick-ites, both home and away, faced a sleepless night not knowing what devastation they will face this morning in the wake of Cyclone Yasi.
For Concetto Lo Giudice, last night would be the second night he's lain awake thinking of daughter Rosanina and grandson Lachlan who evacuated to Airlie Beach from Townsville with son-in-law Andrew staying behind to watch over the house.
On Tuesday night he posted a prayer on Facebook for his family and friends up north, hoping everyone stays safe.
He said the hardest part for the family was having to separate.
“I'm so worried. I didn't sleep on Tuesday night and I doubt I'll sleep tonight,” he said.
“I don't know what to do or say.
“My daughter and grandson are just at Airlie Beach, which is only three hours away, so they're not out of danger. It's hard being so far away from them.”
Mr Lo Giudice is one of three members of Warwick Lion's Club with immediate family in the cyclone zones.
Originally from Warwick, Olympic and Commonwealth Games hockey medallist and electrician Dean Butler bunkered down in his Cairns home with wife Patrice.
Speaking yesterday afternoon he said his suburb had not been evacuated but he had been preparing and would now just have to wait it out and see what happens.
His mum and dad, Peter and Aileen, still live in Warwick and were keeping regular phone contact.
Mr Butler said his son was helping his in-laws secure their property and they were trying not to worry.
“As long as they do the right thing, they'll be okay,” he said.
For many locals, including Dean Butler, now living up north, it's the first time they have experienced a cyclone and even the preparation phase was a terrifying thought for Warwick's Lara Hemmings.
Ms Hemmings spoke to the Daily News as she settled into a family friend's place at Charters Towers.
She had been holidaying in Townsville visiting her sister Heidi when the warnings started coming thick and fast.
“We've moved about 130km inland but they've still got tape on shop windows and they're still preparing.
“People aren't quite as worried here but we'll just be staying inside.”
Yesterday afternoon Ms Hemmings said it was “a bit windy” and she was really scared while they were in Townsville but the evacuation settled her a little.
“I still wish I was at home,” she said.
She has no idea when she'll be able to get back to Townsville. Scheduled to fly home Saturday, she may be stuck there for days.
Former Warwick resident Kristy East was well-prepared in her Townsville home, with her husband and 11-month-old son.
She said the family spent most of yesterday organising a safe room and making sure they had supplies.
“We've had an emergency kit since the start of the cyclone season in November,” she said.
“We're not in the storm surge area and the weather hasn't been too bad yet.
“We're prepared for it but the scariest thing will be the noise.”
Local emergency service workers are on stand-by in case they get called into action and Ergon workers from Warwick and Stanthorpe are preparing to head north to help out.
Daily News chief of staff Casandra Garvey was seeking refuge in Ayr after evacuating from Groper Creek.
As well as regularly updating our website (www.warwickdailynews.com.au) she has been keeping us posted on the storm's progress.
Yesterday at about 11am she had her first taste of the dangerous weather.
While on the phone to the Daily News the wind picked up and rain started pouring through an open window.
“I think it's starting,” she said.
The force of it brought a tree down on a nearby resident's ute.
After 10 minutes it eased, but it was a harsh warning of things to come.
At a local disaster management group meeting, Ms Garvey heard how destructive winds were expected by 7pm, but there would be winds of up to 100km per hour by early afternoon.
In the centre of the cyclone, the group reported winds of more than 300km per hour and the Willis Island weather radar was destroyed when Yasi passed over.
“Even though it seems slow moving, it still is going at around 40km an hour.
“It's travelling south to south-west, so there's still a chance we could get caught in the middle,” Ms Garvey said.
“They were expecting everyone off the street by midday.
“The scariest part is it's at night. Power will be off and the noise will be terrifying.
“It feels totally apocalyptic.
“I won't be getting much sleep tonight.”
As the day rolled on, power went on and off around tea time and Ms Garvey started to feel the reality of the situation.
“The wind is really loud,” she said at 6.30pm.
“It shakes the house and the windows and there is this terrible howling sound. Every so often you hear a crack or a bang and you don't know what it is.
“It calms down for a bit and when it picks up we head to the bunker area we've made in the middle of the house.”
Ms Garvey's dad stayed with the house in Groper Creek and that added to her concerns.
“I just wish he was here with us.”
They listen to the radio every hour for updates and whenever there is a break in the wind Ms Garvey's mum starts cleaning up around the house.
“That's what she does when she's nervous.”
Outside, there are no cars on the street. Yasi was expected to hit the coast at 11pm last night.
The Daily News will bring you more updates throughout the day online and also check out Casandra Garvey's Cyclone Yasi Diary on our website.