Mackay residents breathed a collective sigh of relief when they woke up Thursday morning with the region being spared the wrath of Tropical Cyclone Yasi, the most powerful and devastating cyclone in Australian history.
The cyclone crossed the north Queensland coast near Mission Beach about midnight, smashing hundreds, if not thousands, of properties, and leaving towns and cities from Cairns to Townsville and Bowen without electricity. Strong winds which hit the region overnight included 117km/h at Hamilton Island, and 60km/h gusts at Hay Point and Mackay Airport.
The Mackay Airport was closed Wednesday night but re-opened at 7am on Thursday 3 February, although QantasLink flights North to Cairns and Townsville were cancelled. A planned Virgin Blue flight which was due to arrive at Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport on Thursday was also cancelled.
The Australian Defence Force sent its Townsville-based helicopters to Mackay Airport on Wednesday to keep them safe as Cyclone Yasi hit the North Queensland coast. Adam P took the following photos on Thursday 3 February, showing Australian Army Boeing CH-47 chinooks, MRH-90s, Bell OH-58D Kiowas, and Sikorsky S-70A Blackhawks all flying around the airport and parked on the Western General Aviation Apron. The Townsville based Agusta SPA AW-139 of Emergency Management Queensland is also pictured among the other helicopters. These are all expected to go back to Townsville once the cyclone passes and conditions improve.