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by Jeff Williams
18 Allen St
One Hell of a Storm
The Story of Cyclone Tracy was written by Jeff Williams
By mid afternoon on Christmas Eve 1974, workplace staff parties were all the go in downtown Darwin. Offshore Tracy iIn 1974, Cyclone Tracy rolled into Darwin town unaided and uninvited. She blew over a city hell bent on ignoring her. It was Christmas Eve and not even a rogue storm had the right to spoil a party on that night. She didn't only spoil the party though; she destroyed it with a power never before seen on the northern coast of Australia. The weatherman on duty that night couldn't record Tracy's full details simply because she destroyed the weather station as well.
Darwin had seen frontline action before when the Japanese bombed her from above. More lives were lost in the bombings in February 1942, but Tracy wanted the mantle of the most destruction, and she got it without question.ntensified as she slowly moved westward towards Bathurst and Melville Islands. As church officials prepared early for their Christmas masses, my house mate, a local milkman by the name of Mark, drove off to look in on a few aged customers he knew to be living alone. At about the same time, I headed to the Fannie Bay Jail to check on an inmate due to be released that day. Neither Mark, nor myself, had far to go as the elderly people lived locally and the jail backed on to the street where we lived, Allen Street.
I was a young 24 year-old bread vendor living a dream life in a heavenly tropical part of the world....
By 6pm on Christmas Eve the rain had increased from a drizzle, too a steady light rain pushed along on a freshening breeze. Still there was no sign of a serious threat to our peaceful lifestyle.
At the airport, a few light plane owners were busy securing their craft to their anchor ties. At the nearby Air Force base the action was a little more hectic as their professional training kicked in. The weather Bureau staff were tracking Tracy's every move and sending the latest information to the media on a regular basis. All emergency personnel were put on stand by and the hospital was in preparation mode.
Priority cyclone warning No. 17 at 3pm 24 December 1974
Cyclone Tracy was centred 80klms west nor-west of Darwin moving southeast at 7klms per hour. Very destructive winds of 120klms per hour with gusts up to 150 are expected. The centre is expected to be near Grose Island at midnight.
Grose Island was south west of Darwin, but not by much. This cyclone was going to pass horribly close, and I was beginning to feel just a little concerned. Mark on the other hand, thought it a great adventure as he headed out a second time to check on more of his elderly customers......
At 9pm on Christmas Eve and 18 Allen Street now housed Mark, Morty, our two female guests and myself. Darwin was a big friendly country town, but the fact that the two girls went home with Mark, still a complete stranger, either speaks heaps for the lifestyle in Darwin in 1974, or they were more worried about the storm at that time.
We prepared ourselves, as instructed by the voice on the radio. We moved mattresses, blankets and pillows into the passageway. We filled the bath with fresh water and settled down for the blow, as best we could. We still had no idea of what was to come.
The cyclone warnings were now being updated every half an hour and had lost their numbering.......
The radio continued to crackle with static electricity, heralding the internal turbulence of this growing beast. We could see lightning flash now. Not flashes as such, as you would see in a summer storm, but flashes in the sense of lighting the sky like a strobe light. The rain coming in through the louvres was now joined by water pouring under the front door. The night was becoming decidedly eerie. Tracy grew ever bigger....
By now we had a lounge suite against the front door, a smaller lounge chair behind it, with Mark laying down flat on the floor pushing against the lounges. I then braced myself up against Mark's feet with my hands and my feet wedged up against the opposite wall in the lounge room/passage. It all made a solid brace along the floor that stretched from the front to the back. The girls had retreated into the bathroom leaving the passageway clear.
The fifth gust hit the front of the house and despite our valiant efforts, the whole bloody thing exploded over the top of us. I remembered hearing Mark swear. Being behind him I figured something was amiss, so I crawled into the floorboards, well at least I wished I could have. The whole front of the house disappeared through the kitchen area and out the backdoor into the darkness.
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