❝scary, ...this was su­per scary. I’ve never been that scared in my life.

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - Sharon Small­wood sharon.small­wood@whit­sun­day­times.com.au

— 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.

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