❝scary, ...this was super scary. I’ve never been that scared in my life.
— Steve Andrew,
FOR a while last week, Steve Andrew was the face of Cyclone Debbie in Airlie Beach.
A photograph taken in the immediate aftermath showing Mr Andrew through a smashed car window was beamed across the world.
And there was a good reason for the harrowing expression on his face.
He had watched the house next-door to him “explode”, lost his roof and most of his possessions, been frightened for his life and thought he may have come out of it with a broken hand.
As Cyclone Debbie approached Mr Andrew’s Ocean View Ave rented home he had a front row seat for the destruction she would unleash.
“Because the first part of the storm came from the south I could stand out the north side in the lee and I watched the roof next-door go up,” he said.
“Next thing bang. All the glass blew out so the entire lawns front and back are covered in glass.
“It was tremendous – it was louder than the roar that was going on anyway – it was a horrifying experience.
“And I thought I was next because my roof had gone.
“A man hole cover got blown out and I’m thinking, well this is it and if they’re right, 260km an hour winds head on.”
Next Mr Andrew watched his own windows bow in and out “three centimetres at least”.
“I went through (Cyclone) Ului – that was nothing, but this was scary, super scary. I’ve never been that scared in my life,” he said.
“Then it turned around and bit us from the other way and then Wednesday night we had the rain, and of course the roof was gone. It’s just saturated everything inside.
“There is one room that is not wet.
“The rest of it’s unliveable, you can just poke your finger through the wall, it’s saturated.
“The food’s all gone, clothes have been ruined, it’s putrid, the place stinks – the furniture, everything like that’s all destroyed, the beds are soaked.
“This house has been through Ada, it’s been through Ului, unfortunately Debbie has left it a bit of a mess.”
But even in the face of such adversity, Mr Andrew’s first thoughts weren’t for himself.
He spent the day on Thursday sourcing food and water for a pop-up emergency hospital in Cannonvale and visited friends in need including single mums “the ones who don’t have a bloke around to do things”.
“And it’s amazing how many of us have actually gone round and checked on these vulnerable people,” he said.
“That’s what happens in this community – we’re all making sure everybody else is ok, then we move on to what we’ve got to deal with.”
Mr Andrew described Cyclone Debbie as something nobody could really prepare for “because none of us knew it was going to be as bad as this”.
“That’s the thing – it’s exceeded everything we ever thought could possibly occur,” he said.
But he still had his sense of humour intact.
“The funny thing is between the houses here there was a big old avocado tree with some lovely big avocados on it and I thought, ‘damn, I’ve got to get a ladder out to pick them’,” he said.
“Now I’ve just got to pick them up off the ground,” he joked.
WIDESPREAD DESTRUCTION: Steven Andrew, 56, had his roof torn apart by Cyclone Debbie. This image (shot post-Debbie) saw Steven become “the face” of the cyclone’s destruction.