My husband and I travelled to our favourite holiday destination with our toddler son. On disembarking the boat, were told by resort staff there was a possibility of a ‘low’ forming. Now I’m no meteorologist, so I assumed a ‘low’ would mean a couple of days of unsettled weather, and a damn good reason to book a few spa treatments.
The next evening, we were informed that the ‘low’ was now a ‘cyclone’ and that we weren’t going to be able to leave the island anytime soon, as the channel back was too rough and all flights had been cancelled anyway.
Having had no prior cyclonic experience, and given the storm’s path was supposed to be far north of us, I wasn’t too concerned.
The following morning, all guests were invited to a briefing, and we learnt that our Cyclone, Debbie, had changed course and was now heading directly for our resort, Hayman Island. It was at that point, I could no longer delude myself that this was going to be a normal weather event. The reality hit home in waves, as we were told about a lockdown plan, potential dangers, that the bathroom would be the safest place and that if necessary there was an evacuation plan involving the central kitchen area. Looking around the room I could see I wasn’t the only one who had fooled themselves into thinking this was going to be alright.
We went into room lockdown that afternoon, with the worst of the storm expected to hit us in the night. The longest night I’ve ever known. The wind began to increase in speed and by midnight became a constant scream, like a jet engine. I couldn’t sleep and fearing the windows were going to be blown in. I grabbed some bedding and carried my son, Jack, into the bathroom.
In the morning, the hotel PA update informed us that we were moving into the eye of the storm, and everything became eerily quiet. We could hear birds and I could almost have closed my eyes and imagined the whole thing to be a bad dream!
However, the eye was only a brief respite, and we moved back into the storm, and this time the winds hit the Island from the other direction and harder. The PA advised everyone to move into the bathrooms as the room shuddered under large debris impacts.
The storm had moved far more slowly than expected, and we ran out of provisioned food. Luckily, we had Jack’s snack food, sultanas, strawberry drops and crackers to sustain us! Finally, that evening, resort staff wearing hard hats came to our door with food parcels.
Morning came and the storm passed. We waited for the all clear and got ourselves ready. There was no running water so I had to use bottled water to wash my hair!
At around 11am, after 43hrs we were finally allowed to leave our rooms and as we led to the bar area for breakfast, the full magnitude of the event became apparent. Palm trees flattened and there wasn’t a single building that seemed intact.
The hotel manager explained we were meeting in the soggy-carpeted bar, because none of the four restaurants were functional. We were also told that water was in short supply and I hoped that my blushes were unseen as I thought of the six bottles of sparkling I’d used to wash my hair.
The staff were exceptional over the next few days considering the circumstances. The hotel organised a private plane to take us back to Sydney without the need for us to get embroiled in the ugly scenes that had developed at Hamilton Island Airport with everyone trying to get out.
Months later, and I think we were probably all a little traumatized by what happened. My son is still frightened by breeze-swaying palms trees, my husband who loved that resort mourns it’s passing (it might not ever open again) whilst I’m just relieved, because I don’t think I could ever go back there!
A holiday to remember, or at least one that I cannot forget…however hard I try.