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2017 News Releases




Tropical Cyclone Debbie – emergency communications in Queensland Australia

Date : 04 / 04 / 2017
Author : Jim Linton - VK3PC

A Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit north-east Australia inundating coastal and island resort areas last week. The severe weather system, the worst since 2011, made landfall between Bowen and Airlie Beach on March 28 and has damaged many buildings, destroyed millions of dollars in crops, hit vital infrastructure, dumped lots of rain and caused flash flooding.

Radio amateurs experienced in dealing with cyclones prepared by checking their radio gear, dismantling fragile antenna systems, running emergency power generators and doing checks on the local repeaters in Bowen, Mackay, Central Highlands and Townsville regions. Those radio amateurs that still had HF antennas checked into the 20m and 40m Queensland WICEN Nets, and other established nets.

On Monday March 27 final preparations were completed with the cyclone track confirmed and counter-disaster authorities (including some embedded Hams) at the ready for pre-deployment.

One of the affected towns, Bowen, had its VHF repeater on-air throughout despite lack of mains power in the town, thanks to the Bowen Radio Amateur Group and in particular Geoff Buchanan VK4JDW who had the repeater at his house. That antenna system survived 200kph winds and the repeater was powered by the household emergency generator.

Further inland the Central Highlands Linked Repeater System was functional however its northern coastal node, the Midge Point Repeater, went off-line due to power system and structural damage. Hams have been part of the recovery efforts with many embedded in the Queensland State Emergency Service, Queensland Rural Fire Brigade, care organisations and support teams for power companies. Throughout the area many radio amateurs still used emergency power to put stations on-air, and some had been blocked off by road damage or floodwater.

Many houses in the Queensland flood prone areas are built on stilts to avoid rising water. As the flood continues to move south the downgraded storm has left plenty of damage before reaching northern New South Wales to cause even more damage. The slow moving flood on the Fitzroy River will reach its peak later this week.

This report comes from information supplied by The Townsville Amateur Radio Club and WICEN Queensland Northern Region by Gavin Reibelt VK4ZZ.

- Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee.


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