Mem­oir

Cy­clone Alby dam­age re­called

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - Chloe Fraser

It’s been 40 years since cy­clone Alby sparked one of the State’s worst storm and bush­fire crises, leav­ing be­hind a trail of de­struc­tion across the South West and Great South­ern.

But it is fresh in the mind of for­mer forester and fire­fighter Roger Un­der­wood, who has compiled a mem­oir of the event ti­tled Cy­clone Alby: Me­mories of the 1978 WA Storm and Bush­fire Cri­sis.

The cat­e­gory-five cy­clone struck the South West on the night of April 4, 1978, and caught many by surprise, re­sult­ing in the loss of five lives, dam­age to hun­dreds of homes, and se­vere coastal and fire dam­age.

Un­der­wood was work­ing as a fire con­troller in the Man­jimup dis­trict at the time and has vivid me­mories of the night Alby hit.

His own rec­ol­lec­tion has been compiled with first­hand ac­counts of around 100 other peo­ple.

“Many of the sto­ries tell of the courage, re­silience, bush­man­ship, sheer guts and even the hu­mour of ru­ral West Aus­tralians who sud­denly found them­selves fac­ing a chaos of storm and fire,” Un­der­wood said. He said the cy­clone was so strong it paral­ysed the en­tire re­gion.

“It wasn’t forecast, so it came as a huge surprise — there was no good prepa­ra­tion,” he said.

“Roads were blocked by fallen trees and power lines, power and tele­phones were out for up to a week. There were also 300 bush­fires from Perth to Al­bany on the same day.”

Mr Un­der­wood said it was es­sen­tial that events like cy­clone Alby were re­mem­bered and recorded and that per­sonal me­mories were not for­got­ten.

“Even more im­por­tant is not to for­get the lessons learned so that we can do bet­ter if an­other cy­clone Alby hits,” he said.

All pro­ceeds from book sales will go to the Bush­fire Front to help im­prove bush­fire man­age­ment in WA.

Copies are avail­able from yorkgum@west­net.com.au.

Pic­ture: David Pow­ell

The af­ter­math of cy­clone Alby.

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