Survived a night of Hell – Kathy Shepherd

It was a very uneventful Christmas morning, my husband was at work and I was home with my two young daughters doing the usual shopping, cleaning and preparing food for the Christmas feast. The weather at the time wasn’t unusual for this time of the year, so I paid it no mind. The day went on and from what I can remember there was talk about a cyclone, but in the usual fashion of us who lived here we weren’t really paying attention as there had been a cyclone warning/watch about a week before and that fizzled out so we thought this one would as well.

Later to early evening my husband who was at his works Christmas party came home as his boss was getting a bit panicky about the weather so he told all to go home. After my husband came home we just did normal things like dinner and getting the girls to bed. As it got later into the night the winds and rain picked up and thru the reports on the radio we heard for the first time about the newest cyclone, now called Tracey. We were a Government house, C19 to be exact so we were running up and down stairs to get all the outdoor furniture put away etc. A few restless and panicked hours went by, the girls were asleep dreaming about Santa coming to visit their house, while I was silently praying for this cyclone to turn away and leave us all to enjoy Christmas.
The wind started to roar, we were running from one side of the house to get louvres open on one side of the house as like we had been instructed to do pre cyclone warnings. It didn’t make much difference as the wind was pushing those locked louvres open and rain was pouring in. We both decided to take the girls from their bedroom and put the on the sofa, don’t know why we did this , seemed like a good idea at the time. Not more than 20, maybe 30 minutes later, the massive tree from next door crashed into our house, straight thru the girls room and flattening their beds. This was about the time I started losing it, but counted my blessings and my husband and I made a run for the storeroom downstairs. It took a while but we got there, collecting cuts and bruises along the way from flying debris. Just as we reached the storeroom we both looked back to see our house literally disintegrate in front of us. What we did next can not be explained, we have no idea what made us run, carrying our now rain soaked and frightened children to the next door neighbours ( these people had been in the NT a total of 3 months) house. We did a lot of zig zagging to make it to the fence, hopped over and ran up stairs and found this family of three absolutely sacred to the point where they could not move, on seeing them and stepping into their house their roof lifted off, so my husband yelled and grabbed them and we made it downstairs. Their house was being demolished by the winds so we ran to the next house which happened to have the relatives of the second house and had been in the NT for about 8 days, they were visiting for 4 months and then returning to Ireland and were house sitting for the actual owners of the house.
We all made it downstairs, 6 adults and 3 children, clambered into the storeroom and prayed we would live thru it. The cyclone battled on, never letting up ( I to this day can not remember the eye of the cyclone as to me the wind, the rain and the noise was continuous. We had to put the buckets we found in the shed on the kids heads as the walls of the shed were being battered with God know what and bricks were falling inside the shed.
After what seemed like a lifetime, there was an eerie silence and then the men in the shed decided to venture outside but found that we were trapped by a washing machine that had had fallen against the door, well after a lot of pushing swearing and brute strength they managed to get out, clear the door and we emerged from our hiding place, alive, wet, hungry, and scared but alive. At the time we could not hear or see anyone around us, but what we did see was total devastation of all the houses in our neighbourhood. The first thought we had was that we were the only survivors.
As we looked around we could see neighbours pulling themselves out from their house ruins, some crying, some hysterical but mostly like us were happy to have survived. The women went to the cars parked underneath the house ( they weren’t locked as no one locked anything in those days ) and we found a few things to wrap the children in as they were shivering from the cold and I suspect a tad in shock. We all milled round and took stock of what we were all seeing and had gone thru as there wasn’t much else we could do except wait and see if there would be rescue parties of whatever, we were clueless.
I ask myself why am I writing this, not more than 30 minutes ago a storm just went thru and the winds were fast and hard and all I could think about was Please Dear Lord ‘Not again” it is Christmas Eve.

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