Cyclone Hamish [maptype=G_SATELLITE_MAP;gpxview=all]
According to the ABC news website, a number of people including the Queensland Sea Food Industry Association are calling for the southern half of the Great Barrier Reef to be declared a ‘disaster zone’. Reports from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority suggest that >50% of the reef was affected by cyclone hamish, and reports from the commercial fishing operators say that in the wake of cyclone, most commercially viable fish stocks have all but disappeared:
“Half the reef has been completely overturned from Bowen South. It’ll affect tourism, it’ll affect certainly commercial fishers – about 50 per cent or 300 jobs are at risk with 30 guys put off yesterday,” he said.
“There’s just nothing left out there to fish on.”
He says the damage is having a similar effect to Cyclone Larry’s destruction of banana farms three years ago.
“We’ve had our boats out there working this week for the first time after the cyclone and people with 20 years experience can’t recognise the damage being done,” he said.
“Their catches where they’d catch 150 fish a day have been down to five fish a day.”
The Department of Primary Industries says such a disaster declaration would be a first.
But director-general Jim Groves says the circumstances are unusual.
“This is what we call a quota management fishery. These fishermen, some of them have actually paid to go and catch these fish so they’ve paid for a right they no longer have because of a natural disaster, so that’s what makes it different to past events,” he said.
I hadn’t actually got chance to look at the track of the cyclone yet, but after plotting the path above in Google Earth, it looks like the Swains Reefs in the south-eastern GBR took a direct hit whilst hamish was a category 5 (>290km/h wind gusts).
After threatening to cross land in as a category 4 cyclone with winds >200km/hr, Cyclone Hamish made a dramatic turn westwards and is now winding down towards a Category 1 cyclone out into the Pacific Ocean. After the damage caused by Cyclone Larry in 2006, it seems that South-East Queensland can breath a sigh of relief after evacuation warnings were issued from Bundaberg to Hervey Bay. No news yet on the impact of the cyclone on the reef, although the earlier (March 8th) the cyclone crossed within the marine park, between the mainland and the Swains Reefs as a category 4, and narrowly missed the Whitsunday Islands. More reports and hopefully photographs as they come.
It seems like Cyclone Hamish has taken an unexpected turn eastwards, with the eye of the storm now projected to miss the Capricorn Bunker islands. Heron Island and other coral islands have been evacuated, and residents across the Bundaberg – Hervey Bay region are bracing themselves for the impact as Hamish crosses the in the next 48hrs. The impact of a category 4/5 cyclone on the Great Barrier Reef is likely to be huge – especially as Hamish has tracked parallel to the coastline for over 1000km, straight over the outer reef. The midshelf reefs at Mackay are currently being hit by 6m waves, and Flinders Reef near the eye of the storm recorded 154km/hr winds. More updates as they come keep – meanwhile keep an eye on the Bureau of Meteorology homepage, Earth Snapshot and the Weatherzone forums for up to the minute info.
Update @ 7.55pm:
Looks like the Bureau of Meteorology weather station at Creal Reef (directly in the path of the Hurricane) has been destroyed – the last recorded gust at 1.02pm was 189km/hr!
Only two weeks ago, 60% of Queensland was inundated with flood waters, whilst the south of Australia was hit by record high temperatures and bushfires. Now, the Queensland coastline is currently under cyclone watch as Cyclone Hamish is pushing south along the Great Barrier Reef, and has intensified to a category 5 cyclone, with winds reaching above 280kmh and waves >7m.
Cyclone Hamish missed the Whitsunday Islands, instead heading offshore and weakening to a category 4, but has now veered south-easterly and is currently heading towards the Capricorn Bunker group, directly in the path of Heron Island Research Station. More updates as they come – although no one is certain when the cyclone will cross the coastline, the news are predicting an impact similar if not larger than Cyclone Larry (the last cat 5 cyclone to cross the coast) in 2006.