Coral Bay - Cyclone Nicholas & Flooding.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The cyclone season had been fairly uneventful and we were already through November, December and January when at 9am on Wednesday 13Th Feb a small tropical low off the West Kimberly coast was named as Nicholas a CAT 1 tropical cyclone. No problem mate, its a baby and a long way away. Even when at 6am on the 14Th Feb it intensified to a CAT 2 little heed was paid.

However at midday on 16Th Feb, off Port Hedland, Nicholas again intensified to a CAT 3 severe tropical cyclone.  Now it was getting some attention here in Coral Bay, with FESA monitoring being more frequent, but not too much to worry about. FESA authorities did concede that Nicholas had proven itself to be rather unpredictable and Coral Bay needed to go on alert, although it was still expected to cross before reaching us.   

By Monday the 18Th Nicholas was still progressing down the coast and looking fairly ominous, however it was still expected to turn into the gulf.  Coral Bay was now beginning to prepare with windows being taped up and any loose items being lashed down. Also at this time emergency workers attempted to move numerous illegal campers into the Parks, where they would receive updates and be accounted for, or out of the danger area. Stupidly many simply moved elsewhere, causing emergency workers an unnecessary headache. Also the big task of jinkering all the tour/fishing boats out of the bay into safe storage, some opted to sail to safer water to the South. We went looking for Bayviews cyclone plan only to discover it never existed. The town had a plan which we secured a copy of but we found that it was fairly brief and provided little guidance. That evening the locals who by now had been toying with cyclone talk for six days decided on a volley ball game on the beach, the tide was so high there nearly was not enough sand for the court. The atmosphere was heavy and silent, dripping with expectation.

Tuesday morning the 19Th revealed that while Nicholas was weakening now back to a CAT 2, it was still on a path that could lead it to Coral Bay, we at Bayview had already ceased taking new guests and suggesting to any guests remaining, particularly campers they should consider moving South to Carnarvon. Many had over the last two days, voluntarily packed and left.  Several town meetings were held to digest the reports coming in from FESA and two police officers from Carnarvon had arrived to coordinate any actions required. Eventually at the second meeting the decision was made to evacuate as many non essential people from Coral Bay as possible by bus to Carnarvon where an official evacuation centre had been set up. We drew up a list of Management/FESA personnel we wanted to stay and requested all other staff to evacuate - big brother staff quarters were closed. At 6pm Nicholas was only 45 km west of Exmouth and still CAT 2. All bars were closed and all remaining in town were warned that the town was to be free of alcohol consumption.

The wind at this stage was building and while not scary as such, never the less quite impressive. There was little point in us staying up, given FESA control were monitoring the blow and given we were on code red making it unlawful to leave a building, decided instead to sleep to be fresh if required should the situation worsen. At sometime between midnight and 4pm Nicholas passed Coral Bay at about 30km west and eventually crossed the coast  60 km south of Coral Bay at 10am Wed Feb 20Th as a CAT 1 and quickly deteriorated into a rain bearing depression.

A drive around early Wed morning with our camera revealed a considerable presence of wind, and some damage, the most severe being the roof of the big brother staff quarters being slammed into the court yard, proving evacuation was a sound decision.

Considerable rain had fallen throughout the area which resulted in land locked Lake Macleod filling, the result of this was that the next lot of rain had no escape causing the Lyndon River to flood the Minilya road and Barribiddy creek the North West Highway. Coral Bay was completely cut off for about a week until the creeks at Exmouth and on Burkett road subsided giving access to the North and Barribiddy also subsided allowing traffic to flow south and come the long way to Coral Bay. Minilya road was about three weeks before it could open.

Footnote: We have since developed a very comprehensive emergency cyclone plan for Bayview.
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