Nature’s fury felt across centuries across Queensland

LAST Thursday morning, more than 100,000 people in Capricornia woke up knowing there would be fun and games afoot with a category one cyclone hovering out to sea.

There was an air of excitement around Marcia with hopes of good rainfall and the feeling she would most likely cross the Central Queensland coast in an unpopulated area.

By nightfall, the story had changed. A category four cyclone was bearing down on the region and as the night grew darker, Marcia continued to intensify into one of the most destructive storms on the planet - category five - and she was heading closer to populated areas.

At 9pm an urgent call was issued for St Lawrence residents to evacuate immediately.

Folks between Sarina and Yeppoon were on the highest alert and cyclone shelters in Sarina and Yeppoon went into full emergency operations.

Somewhere between Mackay and Gladstone was going to cop a whack, but where?

Wind gusts up to 270kmh, compounded by the biggest tide of the year, promised to wreak havoc on a scale never seen in the region.

Livingstone mayor Bill Ludwig hoped the storm would cross the coast overnight on the low tide. But despite state-of-the-art modelling and advanced understanding of weather patterns, cyclones continue to defy us with a mind of their own.

Marcia stalled, tracked a bit further north, and then picked up speed before she turned south and slammed into the Central Queensland coast, over Shoalwater Bay, at 8am.

The village of Byfield was the first populated centre to feel Marcia's fury. Buildings were destroyed; thousands of trees uprooted or snapped in half and more than 1000km of powerlines were in a dangerous mess.

The feeling in Rockhampton was that a cyclone would never hit the city, despite memories of the 1949 monster which tracked the Fitzroy River and completely destroyed 500 homes in the city.

The barometer dropped to 960hPa and the highest wind gust was 167kmh. Five men died in the storm and the floods that followed.

By contrast, Marcia's barometric pressure dropped to 930hPa and the highest wind gust recorded was 295kmh.

Her destructive trail continued from Yeppoon, directly across Rockhampton and towards Mt Morgan and Biloela before weakening to a tropical low, leaving utter devastation in her wake.

The Bureau of Meteorology reports Australia's deadliest tropical cyclone occurred on March 4, 1899 when a pearling fleet in Bathurst Bay, north of Cooktown was hit and a massive storm surge accounted for 307 known fatalities.

People may have forgotten Cyclone Wanda, but no one forgets Australia's greatest flood event of the past 50 years, when in January 1974 Wanda caused heavy rains across south-east Queensland, and the now infamous Brisbane floods.

Only time will show the true extent of Marcia's force.

To date, no lives have been lost and no serious injuries reported as a direct result of the cyclone.

But as history has shown, it can take time to realise the true cost.

Four years after Cyclone Larry, Innisfail is still recovering and the towns and cities in the Capricornia region can expect the same.