By Rhiannon Riches
Disaster has twice struck optometrist Susan Weston in Yeppoon, a coastal town in central Queensland. Her practice was damaged in Cyclone Marcia and was flooded last year.
Cyclone Marcia reached Yeppoon on the Queensland coast as a Category 4 system then moved inland over the regional city of Rockhampton as a Category 3 system on the same day.
‘We suffered slight damage from Cyclone Marcia at our practice. We lost our awning and some guttering,’ Ms Weston said.
She has been practising in Yeppoon for 27 years. Ms Weston owns and manages the practice with her husband, a dispenser, and is the only full-time optometrist in the regional town.
She said 26 March 2014 is a date forever etched in her memory. The flood that day resulted in them having to rebuild the practice, after torrential rain and high tide submerged the town’s central business district.
Ms Weston, who lives in Yeppoon, said Cyclone Marcia had caused damage to their home, mostly from uprooted trees. ‘We’ve been through a cyclone before, but a Category 2 or 3’.
Yeppoon was left without power immediately after the cyclone, and Ms Weston could not reopen her practice for some days.
‘We had patients come in who had lost or broken their glasses in the cyclone, so we had some urgent orders to process to help them,’ she said.
Like Russell Cooper in Rockhampton, Ms Weston said Yeppoon had lost ‘the biggest and best trees’ in the cyclone, some of which were more than 100 years old.
Rockhampton optometrist Russell Cooper said the city was without water, power and fuel in the days immediately after Cyclone Marcia tore through on 20 February.
His practice escaped the cyclone unscathed, although the local police station across the road was less fortunate.
This was Mr Cooper’s first cyclone experience and he found the eye of the storm was the most frightening part of the ordeal.
He lives a short walk from his practice and was prepared with a cyclone storm kit. It contains items that provide a household’s essential needs in the event of emergencies like storms, floods and cyclones.
After the storm abated, he was relieved to see his practice intact when buildings nearby had lost their windows. He had recently replaced the practice’s front door and it was undamaged despite the cyclone’s ferocity.
‘The practice did not lose power and was able to remain open for business,’ Mr Cooper said.
He said that ABC local radio and Queensland Government public announcements kept the community updated ahead of the cyclone, and that the landscape was changed permanently with many of the city’s trees uprooted.
Mr Cooper and Ms Weston are members of Optometry QLD/NT.