Forecaster awed by ‘old legends’ of storm watching
WHEN the 90km per hour winds first hit the Whitsunday coast, most residents had little time to bunker down.
A flash cyclone warning was sent by telegram at 5.15am on Saturday, January 17, 1970, the day Cyclone Ada hit.
A Bureau of Meteorology report from 1970 said subsequent warnings gave residents just 18 hours to prepare before the storm made landfall on Hayman Island.
The technology that BOM meteorologist Dean Narramore uses every day was virtually non-existent for those in Cyclone Ada's path.
Every 10 minutes, he said, he receives a satellite scan of the entire planet.
This information, fed through modern weather modelling systems every six hours, meant he could create accurate cyclone predictions days before a severe system hit the coast, Mr Narramore said.
But for the "old legends" who predicted storms with barometers, there was little they could do to warn the public, he said.
"Back then we had no idea," Mr Narramore said.
"We couldn't see what the clouds were doing unless we stood outside."
And without mobiles or the internet, Mr Narramore said it was "much harder to get the message out".
After the devastation of Cyclone Ada, which took the lives of 14 people and amassed a damage bill put at $12 million at the time, the 1970 BOM director Bill Gibbs called for a renewed focus on timely and accurate weather warnings.
Since then billions of dollars had been invested in new weather models, Mr Narramore said.
With days' notice before any storm's arrival, Mr Narramore said the warnings helped people prepare and survive a cyclone.
"We can see it coming," he said.
Mr Narramore said the anniversary of Cyclone Ada highlighted the speed with which forecasters worked today.
"Its incredible how we've advanced in 50 years," he said.