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Locals lend a hand after Cyclone Marcia

By Mark Beale

TROPICAL Cyclone Marcia crossed the coast at Yeppoon as a category five in the early hours of Friday, February 20, and local Cannonvale man Pete Richards and eight Whitsunday SES members were there to witness its full fury.

Mr Richards, digital media and education co-ordinator with Whitsunday-based disaster management software firm QIT Plus, and the Whitsunday SES were called into action to assist authorities.

Mr Richards gave direction on the use of the firm’s emergency services coordination program, Guardian, while the SES assisted the local branch of their organistion.

“There’s three of us who’ve come down to assist the local controller with coordination,” said Whitsunday SES officer in charge Mark Connors.

They also assembled chainsaw and safety teams to assist the public and a peer support team for emergency serivces in the area.

“We were looking at evacuations and those kinds of things and deciding how to get people out of these areas,” Mr Richards said.

Tensions were high when the Whitsunday residents set to work, with the storm surge predicted to be the worst in the town’s recorded history – which luckily didn’t eventuate.

There was plenty of damage however, with strong winds causing issues everywhere.

“I saw the roof of, it was a house or a shed, get ripped off over to the left,” Mr Richards said. When the thick of the storm had passed, the coordination centres recovery work started with 200 incoming calls every hour.

“The calls started coming in and things started ramping up,” Mr Richards said.

“We were helping a lot of the call loggers get on their feet, showing them what sort of information we needed to capture.

“We did a request for assistance through to district and state, so we had eyes in the sky at first light the next day.”

This gave the coordination centre a chance to assess the damage and direct their response where it was needed.

The local authorities then set about getting power back to the essential infrastructure such as water treatment plants and the local hospitals.

“There was quite a lot of people coming in [to the hospital] after the event with injuries from the clean up,” Mr Richards said. “So getting the power back was really critical.” The clean up is still ongoing, however essential services have been restored and life is returning to normal.

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