Community gets behind cyclone affected family
TROPICAL Cyclone Ita was a weather event that one Jubilee Pocket family will never forget after a mini-landslide forced them to evacuate their home.
Ria and Courtney Ward and their children Devlin (16 months) and Alyssa Cooke (13), moved to the area from Maryborough just two weeks before the category 1 cyclone hit.
On Sunday afternoon the family were preparing to bunker down in their rented property on Moonlight Drive when they started to hear what Ria described as loud “bangs”.
“At first I just thought it was the baby or someone knocking something over but then we heard clattering,” she said.
When Ria looked out of the window she saw a large rock falling down the vegetated cliff which abuts the back of the house.
Fearing the worst, the family packed a few bare essentials and got in their car but realised they had nowhere to go.
“We’d only been here two weeks and we knew no-one,” Courtney said.
Following advice from a local Facebook page, the family headed to the PCYC, only to be told there was no shelter available in cyclones below category 3.
Ria and Courtney contacted the police who assessed their property and advised them to either wait for the SES or stay elsewhere until the cyclone had passed.
Ria again turned to Facebook for help and within minutes was inundated with offers of accommodation from total strangers.
The Wards spent the night at the Cannonvale home of Dean and Rose Russo and their children Mazzie-Rose (3) and Ryder (11 weeks) – a family they had never met before.
Ria said she was blown away by their kindness and the kindness of everyone who offered help.
Whitsunday mayor and chair of the Whitsunday Disaster Management Group, Jennifer Whitney, said she was aware of the Wards situation. She said the official advice in floods or cyclones below category 3 was to make contact with family and friends on higher or safer ground and be prepared to stay with them in the event that evacuation was necessary.
STILL ROCKING: Jubilee Pocket residents Courtney and Devlin Ward, Alyssa Cooke and Ria Ward, beside one of the larger rocks, which fell from the cliff behind their house and landed on the concrete floor.