Com­mu­nity gets be­hind cy­clone af­fected fam­ily

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Sharon Small­wood

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.

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