The largest category 5 cyclone to hit the east Australian coast in living memory passed to the south of Lizard Island on the night of 2/3 February.
Wind speed peaked at 40 knots according to the GBROOS sensor pole near Bird Islet. This is strong but not extraordinary and there was no damage on land.
We were very concerned about storm surge and the higher-than-usual sea level that is associated with cyclones and it was lucky that the worst of it happened near low tide. With wind from the northwest, waves were crashing onto the beach in front of the Station for most of the night. They didn't cause much erosion because the tide was very low at 3 am. We had sandbagged the path between the beach and the workshop in preparation but that level was not reached by waves even at high tide the following morning.
The 25 of us who were at the Station on Cyclone Night got together for a pot-luck dinner in the beach house, with crashing waves and strong wind providing the soundtrack - along with ABC radio for updates. We were well-prepared and fairly confident by then that the zone of dangerous winds would miss us completely. Many had friends and family on the mainland who were in much more danger so there was a lot of worry on that score.
When we were able to get back into the water afterwards, we found that many branching and table corals had been broken and overturned. That is part of normal life for these kinds of corals - they can regrow from fragments if conditions are favourable. The waves were not strong enough to dislodge boulder corals, thankfully. These cause major damage to reefs because they roll around like giant bowling balls, smashing everything in their paths. A benefit of the cyclone is that it has sucked a lot of heat from the sea so the likelihood of a severe coral bleaching episode this year is much reduced.
The fortnightly barge arrived as scheduled early on the day of the cyclone but our food supplies were not on board due to cyclone preparations in Cairns. They will arrive tomorrow, a week late. We have had some "unusual" meals in the past week but the Resort has kindly helped out and no-one has gone hungry. This minor detour from normality is nothing compared to the losses suffered by many others in this giant storm. We are all looking forward to tomorrow, though!