The Locals' Guide - Lord Howe Island


The day after Cyclone Sandra

Posted by Dani Rourke – Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A bit of damage

Luke is a terrible weather nerd. He checks the forecast online, in four or five different places, at least a couple of times a day. He knows what time the BOM will release its latest forecast, and he’s at the computer waiting for it to load. He has favourite websites for short, medium and long range forecasts as well as for wind, swell and rain. He reads weather blogs. He still checks the snow forecast daily, even though he hasn’t been skiing since 2004. He looks up the latest weather observations and compares them to yesterday’s forecast. He even owns a barometer (seriously – how nerdy is that?).

We put up the weather forecast on a noticeboard at Pinetrees every morning. In theory, it is supposed to help people decide where to go and what to do for the day. Unfortunately, the Lord Howe weather forecast usually says: “partly cloudy, chance of showers”. It isn’t very helpful! I’m always telling our guests to ignore it. I tell them that the local BOM office just puts out the same forecast every day as a cost saving measure and that I wouldn’t mind if they would only say “mostly sunny” instead of “partly cloudy”. BOM meteorologists are definitely ‘glass half empty’ people.

When we first moved to Lord Howe, Luke said to me, just as we were getting ready to go to bed one night, that there was bad weather coming and that the island should be on cyclone watch. I told him crossly that we don’t have cyclones at Lord Howe. It’s a sub-tropical climate and cyclones simply don’t come this far south. He insisted that a cyclone was coming and I retorted that he should call the local BOM field office if he was worried. He dialled the number, said hello and launched into a 3 minute weather monologue with all of the technical details. Finally he paused, listened, and then said something like: “Oh it’s you Paul! You’re there fixing the kitchen?”. He was talking to the handyman and the BOM office was totally unattended. I laughed so hard that I nearly wet my pants and I’ve teased him about it ever since.

So, difficult as it is to admit, Luke and the nerdy multi-coloured models were right about Tropical Cyclone Sandra and I was, well, not-right, if you know what I mean. (This is my blog, I don’t have say I was wrong, do I?). Luke talked to Paul, our Exec Chef (another weather nerd) last week about the weather. Together they compared models and predictions, ordered some extra food on a freight flight before the weather deteriorated and discussed what the guests would actually eat if the cyclone hit and the supply ship was delayed. If you’re wondering, we’ve been serving just a bit more fresh pasta and home-made bread than usual. The salads served with the fish and chips at lunch today seemed to be made almost entirely of roasted pumpkin (still nice with sage, pine nuts, fetta and a bit of rocket). The guests haven’t complained, but the desserts for the last couple of nights have been strictly non-fruit - chocolate, coffee, vanilla, caramel, soufflé, semifreddo etc.

If you’d like to read the blow-by-blow details of the cyclone preparations and see all of the weather maps, have a look at Luke’s news item on the Pinetrees website. (Did he really save all of those track maps? Is that normal?)

We got through our first Tropical Cyclone without too much damage. The wind sock at the airport didn’t like the 150km/hr gusts (silly me - I thought that’s what wind socks are for), and the predictions for “abnormally high tides and coastal erosion” were spot on. Blinky Beach still looked pretty good with 80km/hr offshore winds and a building cyclone swell. There was a huge mess at Pinetrees, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a rake and a wheelbarrow. Here are a few photos of the morning after the cyclone. It’s more enjoyable in hindsight…

Not much help!

Not good for the boatshed

There's always somewhere sheltered on Lord Howe Island

That would have hurt last night!


The Locals’ Guide to Lord Howe Island is written by Denis Corcoran, Pia Funch, Luke Hanson, Geordie Tennant and Dani Rourke. We regularly visit the island’s iconic locations (and our secret spots) in different conditions, seasons and times of day (by foot, bike, kayak, boat and snorkel), and hope to share our experiences with you. If you need some travel inspiration, details on locations and the best activities, or just a brief online escape from your daily routine, then read our posts about life on Lord Howe Island.