Cyclone Larry at Tolga on the 20-3-06


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The eye wall of cyclone Larry went through Tolga. There were wind gusts of approx 180 km/h. Some people estimated them at 200km/h. Fortunately, we are inland so we escaped the estimated 300km/h winds on the coast. As a result, most people have a house and shed in tact. However, there was other damage and a large clean up. Some farm sheds about 4 km east of Tolga were completely destroyed. Trees came down on a few buildings.

On the 19-3-03, the afternoon before the cyclone, the weather was fine. The wind did not start to spring up until later on Sunday night when the rain came. Initially the wind was from the south. The wind then veered towards the south-west early in the morning on the 20-3-06. It was a south-westerly at about dawn. The wind strengthened and was from the west to the north-west at it's strongest point. That was about 9 AM. The wind then veered towards the north around midday and the rain then eased. The strongest winds lasted for about two hours, but were destructive for longer than that. The rain stopped completely in the afternoon. The eye of the cyclone did not pass through Tolga. However, it could be stated that the eye wall did.

It was very dark during the cyclone and a flash of lightning was noticed. However, I never heard any thunder.

I tipped the rain out of the manual rain gauge at 6 AM when 18mm of rain was measured since 9 AM the day before. This was because I knew it would be dangerous and inaccurate to do it at 9 AM. From 6 AM to 3 PM that afternoon, 163.2 mm of rain fell. The rain should be measured at 9AM. However, this was not possible as it was in the middle of the cyclone when there was heavy rain. However, the batteries on the computer were still running and enabled a rainfall reading of 77.6 mm until 9 AM.

I filmed the cyclone from underneath the eve on the leeward side of the shed. Filming was mainly toward the east as the strong westerly winds made filming too difficult into the west. The cyclone was filmed until the camera's battery ran out. Soon after the wind eased, although it was still a strong north-westerly when I finished filming. Filming was very difficult during the cyclone as the strong wind made it difficult to keep the camera still. Also I had the camera in a plastic bag to keep the heavy rain off it. Only the lens was out of the bag. I had another bag in my hand to put the camera in when I was not using it. As a result it was difficult to point the camera in the exact direction that I had hoped, and my voice was a little difficult to hear. The roaring wind and panic of the situation also did not help. The wind made it hard to hear the radio that can be faintly heard on the film at times. I also had to frequently wipe drops of water off the lens. However, the video footage is still well worth watching as it is only 6 minutes long. Unnecessary parts were edited out. I captured most of the strongest gusts of wind that we had. The first file is a 23 second video of wind during the cyclone. It is the most suitable one for media footage. The 23 second file can be seen on Youtube by clicking here. The 5.54 minute video can be viewed by clicking here..

Late in the afternoon we went out to do some filming Down Barsen's road and out towards Kairi where I filmed some farm sheds that were destroyed east of Tolga township. The next day we did some filming in Atherton where a gymnasium had lost it's roof. The Tolga scrub was filmed along with some other views of Tolga. This video footage is in a separate file that is 3.38 minutes long.

I also have these video files on DVD's with higher quality images that I can freely send you. This is recommended for television broadcasts.

The air pressures using an aneroid barometer at Tolga are listed below.

Air Pressure (hPa)
6.47      993
7.05      991
7.50      985
9.05      980
10.00    990
10.35    996

My accurate electronic barometer sensor for the weather station had broken down. However, the readings compare well to other centres such as Mareeba Airport which recorded 987.7 hpa. This airport is further from the eye of the cyclone than Tolga. Further from the eye again, George Creek Orchards 10km west of Mareeba recorded 992.7 hpa. They have a detailed weather station at .   You can see a BOM document with detailed observations, charts and photographs

Some of the equipment on my weather station was also damaged but then soon fixed. The extended loss of power meant that the battery backup was not sufficient to maintain and save a lot of data collected in the cyclone. As a result a lot of it was lost. However, manual temperature and rainfall readings were still recorded and entered in the monthly tables on the website. The computer and other measuring devices broke down probably due to the power problems. The power went out at 7 AM and remained out for approximately 32 hours.

One of the biggest disappointments that I have ever had is that I did not get a wind speed reading, even though I have the instruments to do it. I could not get it set up in time and was just about to do it when the cyclone hit. One of my goals for the last few years has been to set up a wind meter and a mast before the next severe cyclone. Even the afternoon before cyclone I desperately tried to erect a temporary mast to mount my wind meters on. But the cyclone came too fast and time ran out. To accurately measure the wind, a wind meter should be placed 10 meters above the ground if there are no trees near that height to obstruct the wind. If there are trees that could cause obstruction, the wind meter should be at least a couple of meters above all the nearby surrounding trees.

In the months leading up to the cyclone I invented a new type of wind meter which has advantages. However, it was not quite ready at the time of the cyclone. Other people in our area also had bad luck such as my friend near Mareeba who had a weather station, but the mast with his anemometer broke before the height of the cyclone. As a result there were no recordings of the maximum wind speed in my area that I know of apart from a private weather station with a very low mast in Atherton that recorded a maximum gust of 187 km/h. It also recorded a minimum barometric pressure of 977 hPa.

The wind meter I invented is very simple, affordable and gives the maximum speed up to any speed that you want. I would like to work with people to get some of them set up in different locations. I am not worried about making money or selling them at this stage. I am prepared to loan them on trial. I can make more units at home. However, I also need people to help manufacture and distribute them. They are mechanical and more reliable then many electronic ones. It does not matter if their pole leans a little as it should not affect accuracy. Hence they could be clamped to a pole that is attached to the top of a tree, where the pole sticks well above the tree and only needs the tree for a support. They can be easily installed without having to climb the tree. A stayed bamboo pole away from trees would be an even better simple low cost option. The low cost and ease of installation means that many more wind meters could be installed in our area.

I am an inventor with many ideas that could help our community. I also have non profit groups such as a weather network and am thinking of adding more sensors to my weather station that graph out the weather. I would like to be able to set up other weather stations in our area and am seeking people who are interested to help me achieve this.

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