13 December 2023

Well equipped: Cape York councils prepared for wrath of Cyclone Jasper

| Matt Nicholls
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The Bureau of Meteorology’s tracking forecast of Cyclone Jasper, issued at 5.01am on Wednesday.

The three Cape York councils most likely to be impacted by Cyclone Jasper say they are well prepared for whatever comes their way as the Bureau of Meteorology predicts the worst of the weather to hit on Wednesday.

The Wujal Wujal, Cook and Hope Vale councils are bracing for the wild weather, but are calling for residents to remain calm.

Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott said the region was well-equipped in preparation for TC Jasper.

“We are getting plenty of warning for this one, which is a good thing,” he said.

“But a lot of our preparation is done throughout the year and over the course of many years.

“Our District Disaster Management Group is working closely with the state’s DMG and Queensland Police Service is sending an Inspector up to Cooktown, as well as Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal, to support the mayors and CEOs.

“A similar thing happened when Ita and Nathan hit in 2013 and ’14 and they were fantastic.

“Those senior QPS guys don’t have any hang-ups or personal concerns in the towns.

“Our problem in small communities is that our local leaders have concerns like families, businesses, cars and houses.

“I know my biggest concern is making sure my family is safe.”

The last major cyclone to hit the southern Cape was Cyclone Ita in April 2014. It created havoc in Cooktown and Hope Vale.

Cr Scott said Ergon Energy had already mobilised large generators to strategic locations in the southern Cape.

“They are massive, almost the size of a shipping container and they will come into action if we have any power outages,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“In Cooktown, for example, if a power line goes down in one section of town, one of these generators can be hooked in to get power back up and running to most of the homes.”

Cook Shire Council got on the front foot last week, opening up its waste transfer stations for a “free dump day” over the weekend.

The Lakeland and Ayton centres opened on Saturday, while the Cooktown and Coen stations were free to use on Sunday.

“I took a load of rubbish out there this morning and there would have been eight or nine cars there taking advantage of it,” Cr Scott said at lunchtime on Sunday.

Panic buying at the local supermarkets had just started to set in, the mayor said.

“I was told it wasn’t too bad on Saturday but today the shelves are becoming a bit more sparse,” he said.

“My advice would be to make sure you have enough food to get through a few days because that’s the longest you’ll be cut off for in the worst-case scenario but it shouldn’t be a major issue this time around.”

Jason Woibo, the mayor of Hope Vale, said his council and community would remain calm.

“We’ll have a Disaster Management Group meeting on Monday morning to get the latest and we’ll keep a close eye on things but we are not too worried,” he said.

“The latest tracking has it going south of us and history says that the worst of the rain and wind can actually be south of the eye of the cyclone. We are not complacent but we are always well prepared.

“Because we were getting towards the end of the year, the council had already started cleaning up the town in preparation for the cyclone season.”

Hope Vale residents gathered in a safe place during Cyclone Ita in 2014.

Cr Woibo said the council’s primary concern was making sure that those living in the aged care facility, as well as those on dialysis, had access to power.

“Ten years ago we copped a fair bit from both Ita and Nathan so locals know what cyclones are all about,” he said.

“We’re just telling people to remain calm and to stay indoors when the nasty weather hits.”

Cr Scott echoed those thoughts, saying the local police had worked with community groups to conduct welfare checks on the elderly, as well as those sleeping rough.

“It does pay to check on your neighbour and see if they are OK and need a hand,” he said.

“One thing to consider is the likely direction of the wind. We know that it will come from the south-east, which means you can park your car in a strategic place to protect it.

“This town has been built around the threat of cyclones and has gone through many over the years.

“I’m more worried about places like Port Douglas, Wonga Beach and even Cairns, who haven’t experienced a cyclone for a long time.

“The further remote you get the further self-reliant you become. But they’ve got a lot of new people who haven’t experienced a cyclone before.”

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