Host: Warrawagine Cattle Co.
Written Robin Mills – Owner, Warrawagine Cattle Co.
Living in north west WA, most people are accustomed to a cyclone or two every wet season, with some doing more damage than others. It has been almost seven years since Severe Tropical Cyclone Laurence. Laurence crossed the coast as a category 5 system over Wallal Downs and Mandora Station, destroying buildings, homesteads, and perishing cattle – our family didn’t own Wallal at that time.
Wallal Downs Homestead after Cyclone Laurence.
This was the one thing that was constantly in the back of our minds after we moved to Wallal – knowing that we were living right smack in the middle of cyclone alley. Warrawagine, our other station, also endures cyclones but by the time they reach the homestead the winds have died down and the cyclone isn’t as severe because it is situated further inland.
In the last three years we’ve had one cyclone. Cyclone Christine moved south parallel to the Kimberley coast, bringing rain and very little wind. We knew it was just a matter of time before another big cyclone comes, so staying prepared and ready has always been important to us.
In February of this year Cyclone Stan was looking to be our man! Weather predictions were saying he would bring much needed rain and unfortunately strong winds as well. With today’s technology we were able to stay in the loop and track Stan’s moves.
With Lynda down in Perth and Jacinta overseas in Argentina it was just myself, Davo and Katie here at the homestead. Davo is an old hand when it comes to preparing for a cyclone as he has sat through a couple at Warrawagine with us. But for Katie, this was all new. In true Katie form she rose to the challenge and was ready to do whatever was needed of her.
Cyclone Stan Brewing.
Having intensified to a category 3 we knew it was possible for the cyclone to get stronger and with Stan approaching the coast and looking to cross somewhere between Mandora and Pardoo, it was go time. Davo and Katie got to checking everything around the homestead was secure and I started collecting empty 44’s (200lt drums) and wheelie bins. All of the steel drop down shutters were put into place and empty 44’s were sat up against them. Katie then filled them all up with the hose so that there is a solid 200kg holding the steel shutters closed. Shade sails were pulled down from the pool, BBQ’s were packed away, tables turned upside down with weights sat on top and so on. Pretty much anything that the wind can get a hold of send flying through the air was secured down or packed away. All windows and doors were triple checked and there was another once over around the homestead to make sure nothing goes BANG in the middle of the night.
Getting ready to place 44 Gallon drums on the outside of the shutters around the home.
Down at the pivots Jayden and Dazza were in the same situation – cleaning up and tying down. Anchor points are drilled deep into the ground for all of our pivot spans to be anchored to so that they don’t get destroyed in a cyclone. I phoned them a few times throughout the day to check they were doing all right and that they had plenty of food and water.
Come 5pm the rain had started and it was getting a little windy – but nothing to write home about. At Wallal the safest place to be during a cyclone is our homestead. The coral rock walls have stayed standing for over 50 years, so I got Davo and Katie to move into our spare room for the night so I knew they were safe. With no more to do but wait, we headed to the kitchen for a few beers and soft drinks and Katie cooked up a storm for tea. Internet checks become more frequent as the reception and satellite can drop out at any point, but this way we have a rough idea of when to expect the drama to unfold.
By 9pm that night the wind had picked up and we were still getting showers of rain but I was starting to think the Stan had become idle, waiting out at sea. This is never a good sign as it means the cyclone can intensify and move to a category 5. Two hundred and something kilometre an hour winds are not ideal when you have to sit through a cyclone. I decided it was time to batten down the last door into the homestead, chuck the TV on and watch a movie for an hour or so before we headed to bed.
We woke up at 5am to wind trying to gust through the homestead – a wake up call that Cyclone Stan was here. Jumping on the internet was the easiest way to figure out what was happening outside as it still wasn’t safe to leave the homestead. The Bureau of Meteorology showed that the eye of the cyclone had crossed almost right over the top of our pivots. Shit! I jumped on the phone to make sure Dazza and Jayden were doing okay . . . Jayden informed me that the last few hours had been rough but they were all good. Only daylight would tell how much damage had been done around the property.
We were lucky this time. Cyclone Stan stayed a category 3 when it crossed the coast. With only a few trees blown over and pulled out of the ground, it was an easy clean up. 61mm of rain measured in the gauge, which was somewhat disappointing as they had forecast over 200mm. Anything is better than nothing and we will keep our fingers crossed for more rain to come.