View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Hurricane update - 11 January

Not had a hurricane update post for more than two months, but we're now having the first tropical cyclone of 2011. It currently goes by the prosaic title of 05P, meaning it is in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. The system is located in the archipelago of Vanuatu, where the southern provinces are on alert. 05P will move southwest and cross the Grand Ile of New Caledonia [Nouvelle Caledonie] on Thursday (Friday local time) at nearly hurricane force. I am posting updates on my Tropical Cyclones blog.

Australia's year of disasters

The floods in the Australian state of Queensland are getting worse and worse. It all started before Christmas with a tropical storm near Cairns, which was followed by a protracted period of rain. This led to extensive and deep flooding, with the situation around the town of Rockhampton, 700 miles further south, being particularly dire. This now appears to have been eclipsed by flooding around the state capital, Brisbane, where 6 inches of rain fell within 75 minutes last night. Walls of water, up to 20 feet (6 m) deep have come crashing down the river valley, sweeping away everything in its path. A dozen people have died in the floods, although the casualty toll may not be known accurately until the floods subside. Queensland's state government publishes emergency updates on this link.

Elsewhere in Australia:
Over the next few days, the state of Western Australia will have to look over its shoulder, as a tropical cyclone appears to be forming 900 km to the north of Exmouth. Once it has formed, it will double back on its present westerly course and could pose a threat to the Pilbara or Kimberley coasts.

A similar hazard exists some 700 miles east of Queensland, where a tropical cyclone could form in the island state of Vanuatu. Four provinces of Vanuatu are on Yellow or Blue Alert at present.

Tuesday 11 January

A bright and sunny day, although the sun has now disappeared behind a veil of high cloud that is moving in from the west. Rain and sleet are on the menu tonight, and a gradual thaw is forecast for tomorrow. Today's max was +5C just after midnight; five hours later, the mercury had dipped to -3C. We're just above freezing, but that has not done much for the perilous state of the pavements. Yesterday morning, the presenter on local radio station Isles FM broke her arm whilst walking along the road to the station. I copy the story from the station's website:

Isles FM presenter Kathleen MacIver was a casualty of the winter ice yesterday morning - but she didn't let it stop her presenting live radio for two and a half hours. Kathleen slipped and fell on icy pavements on Newton Street at 5.30am, breaking a bone in her elbow and bruising her leg badly. After crawling to a kerb and getting back on her feet, she limped in to the radio station and was on air at 7.30am. "I did the show with one arm and between gritted teeth," said Kathleen, who did not tell listeners of the pain she was in. Fellow presenter Lionel Sewell took over soon after 9am and Kathleen went to Western Isles Hospital, where a broken elbow was diagnosed. Managing director David Morrison said: "That she still went in to do the breakfast show with a broken arm says a great deal about Kathleen. Not many people would have done that." She's now on bedrest and forbidden to work until she has recovered completely! 

Six years ago today

11 January 2005 is one of those days that everybody who was in the Outer Hebrides at the time will not forget. A deep Atlantic depression moved past our islands, bringing with it winds of force 12 on the Beaufort scale, with gusts in excess of 130 mph. At the time, I was staying in Kershader, 12 miles south of Stornoway as the crow flies - more like 22 miles by road. At 6.22pm, the power went off, not to go back on again for 48 hours. The wind was already howling around the building. Blue flashing lights penetrated the darkness from across Loch Erisort - police cars were stopping traffic on the Stornoway to Tarbert road after a lorry driver reported a sheep flying past his windscreen. The driver of the South Lochs bus that night was mightily relieved to make it home in one piece, he told me later. Trees were downed, roofs taken off, vehicles crushed under trees - and hundreds of them toppled in the Castle Grounds in Stornoway. High tides lapped at the doors of people on Cromwell Street and Bayhead in the town. Boats were torn off their moorings and smashed into the ferry terminal. Slates became like missiles, and pedestrians blown off their feet. Some who sought refuge were denied entry; others were taken inside.

The next morning dawned breezy and bright. Everybody heaved a sigh of relief. That was a bad one, but it's only damage. By 9.20 am however, reports start to emerge from the Southern Isles. Five people are missing in South Uist, after they fled their home the previous evening at around 7pm. Rising tides had started to approach their home, and pebbles were hurled against walls and windows. They enter two cars and drive from their home at Eochdar towards the causeway, linking South Uist and Benbecula. A fatal decision. That road parallels the stretch of sea that separates the two islands. The southeasterly storm, combined with a springtide from the northwest pushed the waters of Loch Bi up; but on account of the floodtide they could not drain into the sea. The loch flooded a small causeway, sweeping the cars into the water. By morning, the five missing people are found dead. They include a mother and father with two young children and a grandfather.

This is a repost from an entry I made on 11 January 2010.