Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cyclone Yasi about to hit Queensland

For in-depth info on Cyclone Yasi, which is about to hit Queensland, please check out Geology in Motion and the usual news sources. It's going to be a horrific affair, and my heart goes out to those in the path, especially since it's been only a few weeks since the record-breaking flooding in the general region. This is a huge storm coming in, a category 5 cyclone ("hurricanes" in the northern hemisphere). It's one thing to hear about such extraordinary events hitting some place far away, but it's another if you've seen the place, and if you have relatives near by. I visited Cairns and Port Douglas a few years ago, and had a wonderful time, and met some wonderful people. They are in my prayers...
Australia is generally seen as a dry continent, with vast desert vistas, but the northeast coast extends into the tropics and includes some unique and extraordinary rainforests. We took a railway to Kuranda (admittedly a tourist magnet, but a nice place to visit), and passed the mostly dry Barron River Falls (large hydroelectric dams upstream). The barren rock suggest the falls must be spectacular when full.

The other spectacular locality was the extraordinary Great Barrier Reef, which will no doubt suffer some serious damage as the storm surge rushes towards shore. They do the tours quite well, and we were able to snorkel and take a mini-sub tour of the reefs themselves. I count the experience as one of the pivotal events of my geologic life. It was like going back in time to the vast reefs of Paleozoic time that once covered large areas of the American west. It's one thing to see the quiet echo of fossilized life in the rocks and another to see the reefs full of life in the present day.
I wish and pray for the best for the people of the Queensland Coast. Earthquakes may be terrifying because they are so unexpected, but it may be worse knowing what is out there, and having to just wait. There's only so much one can do to prepare for such unprecedented events.

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