On this date 10 years ago, Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi made landfall as a Category 5 system in the southern tropical Queensland town of Mission Beach.
TC Yasi caused significant destruction across North Queensland including Cardwell, Tully, Mission Beach, Innisfail and surrounding areas.
As the cyclone edged closer to the mainland, Queensland police assisted communities to prepare for the impending severe weather system.
Police patrolling Mission Beach streets
Many of the officers involved in the response lived and worked among the impacted communities themselves, and were personally affected by the natural disaster.
One of those officers was Superintendent Dave Tucker, who was an Inspector in Innisfail at the time, and District Disaster Coordinator for the Innisfail District Disaster Management Group.
Superintendent Tucker said he not only held concerns for his community, but for his own loved ones living in Innisfail at the time.
“It was incredible the impact that it had upon you when you actually had family living locally,” Supt Tucker said.
“We were fully aware that some of them were aged and it was about ensuring that they were being looked after by other members of the family while we were addressing the preparations of the community for the cyclone.
“It was very much on our mind all the time, that this was going to impact them directly.”
Police worked with dedicated officers, staff and volunteers from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, State Emergency Services, Queensland Ambulance Service and local councils during the preparations, response and recovery from TC Yasi.
Officers were tasked to coordinate traffic and assist residents who chose to evacuate their homes.
Patrols were conducted before the cyclone hit to ensure the safety of those who stayed in their hometowns.
Superintendent Tucker said it was difficult for many of the officers in the area to end their patrols so they could seek shelter with their family and in their local police stations.
“These officers are so connected to their communities,” he said.
“Some of them really struggled with the call to stay inside until the storm had passed. There were a few tough conversations.”
As TC Yasi crossed the coast and continued west-southwest towards Mount Isa, boats, homes, businesses and crops were significantly damaged by heavy rain and winds reaching up to approximately 285km/h.
Roofs ripped off houses in Mission Beach
In the aftermath of the cyclone, officers worked to ensure residents in affected areas were accounted for, and assisted with the clean-up.
Superintendent Tucker said he was proud of the proactive approach police and other first responders had to help their communities in the days and weeks following TC Yasi.
“There was a point in time when I realised we were going to be okay, that was when the storm passed and I could hear our officers on the radio go from house to house and help people without being asked, they just knew what to do,” he said.
“And it wasn’t just police, we worked closely with the firies and the ambulance service before, during and after the storm to help our community as quickly as we could.”
A number of police stations and vehicles were also damaged as a result of the severe cyclone.
Following an extensive clean up process, the regional communities impacted by TC Yasi worked to recover from the disaster.
“That’s the thing about disasters as a police officer, you end up dealing with things you never thought you’d have to deal with,” Superintendent Tucker said.
“I remember one meeting, one topic of conversation was feeding the cassowaries.
“Their habitat had been impacted so badly that we had to talk about how to feed them.
“They don’t prepare you for this at the academy.”
A decade on from TC Yasi leaving its destructive trail across the state’s north, the Queensland Police Service remembers how the disaster affected residents and first responders alike.
As we move forward to face future disasters, we remember the resilience and mateship of those affected by Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi.
Superintendent Tucker said he was incredibly proud of each and every police officer who assisted during TC Yasi.
“I’m so proud because of what they did for their community and how they undertook so many selfless acts,” he said.
“There were so many acts of bravery that did not get noticed because the officers said they were just doing their jobs, but I’ve heard story after story of the wonderful job they did, and the courage and leadership they showed to their community.
“I am absolutely very proud of them, it will be with me for the rest of my life. There is nothing so beautiful than having such a great group of people to work with in a time like that.”
Flood waters block a main road and choke banana fields in Innisfail
The Bureau of Meteorology has named TC Yasi as one of the most powerful cyclones to have affected Queensland since records commenced.