Last weekend we thought we would take a mini-break and find a lovely place to stay for a night not too far from Sydney.
I’d never been to Nelson Bay, a coastal town with a population of just 5,000 that’s part of Port Stephens and just two and a half hours from home. With the uni students busy (as usual) we climbed into the car with our ‘only child’ and headed north.
It was a beautiful sunny day although unusually hot for the middle of March and thinking nothing of it, I was looking forward to getting to the resort and spending the afternoon lying in the sun with one of several books I’d packed into my luggage. Fifteen minutes into the journey the blue sky turned black and suddenly, out of nowhere came rain that had such intensity the noise of it hitting the car prevented us from having conversation without shouting at one another.
But then the rain disappeared as quickly as it arrived and I thought we were leaving the storm behind us.
The drive from Sydney to Nelson Bay is fairly easy; it’s freeway just about all the way. For a weekend getaway it doesn’t seem too far to travel. As we drove into Nelson Bay we pulled over to check the location of the resort. While Carl was studying the map I glanced outside and noticed very black clouds were starting to blanket the town.
We weren’t far away from the resort, in fact, just walking distance away and we started our short journey there but then suddenly, rain and wind came down horrendously. We could barely make out what was in front of us and had to drive extremely cautiously. Branches torn from gum trees swirled above us and we drove past a tree that then came crashing across the road bringing live electrical wires with it. Having driven past moments earlier I’d call that a lucky escape.
We drove in through the gates of the resort but the rain was so fierce we couldn’t see where to take the car or where to find reception. We eventually found somewhere undercover to put the car then Carl got out to try and find where to check-in. Five minutes later he was back with a courtesy umbrella but soaking wet.
He had been told we were probably caught up in a mini-cyclone. The electricity was out, there were people stuck in the lifts, all the outdoor furniture had been thrown from one end of the resort to the other and was now lying in pieces and windows were smashed.
We had the key to our apartment and moved the car into the car park. With no electricity the car park was in darkness and so we used the light on our mobile phones to shine the way to the stairwell. We navigated our way up the blackened stairwell with the help of our phones and did the same to get down the corridor to find our apartment.
When we walked into the apartment the outdoor furniture was strewn across the balcony and the table was upside down with the legs broken. Alfie was thrilled the apartment had Foxtel (we don’t have it at home) but then screwed up his face when he realised he couldn’t watch it.
It’s amazing how quickly you realise what you can’t do when you don’t have electricity. We couldn’t charge my laptop, Carl’s Kobo and i-pad or our phones. We couldn’t turn on any lights or watch TV or listen to the radio or boil the jug for a cup of tea. Sirens from emergency services sounded constantly. With not a lot else to do we went for a walk to survey the damage. We walked along the shopping strip but couldn’t buy anything because they’d had to close due to no lighting and not being able to operate EFTPOS machines.
But just before 8pm, power was restored. I was so excited to be able to plug in all our devices, and it meant we could go out for dinner but most of all, it meant I wouldn’t miss the next episode of Downton Abbey. And we were lucky; 24-hours later 12,000 homes in the area were still without power.
This mini-cyclone wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes but what a lot of devastation it caused. I was in awe of how well and how quickly our country responds to an emergency situation; by the next day so much of the debris that lay scattered across roads and homes and public areas had already been cleared. For an area with such a small population I was very impressed.
And that was the first mini-cyclone I’ve ever experienced.
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