Park owner Jenny braces to take on Debbie

Jenny Townsend has ordered guests to leave her beachside caravan park in Bowen – she doesn’t want to be responsible for any deaths Cyclone Debbie might cause.


But Ms Townsend isn’t going anywhere despite the Red Zone evacuation order over her Harbour Lights van park that sits just 50 metres back from the sand – a marina on one side, a stretch of beach on the other.

When Debbie makes landfall – somewhere between Bowen and Ayr, 100km to the north – she will be taking shelter in the two-storey brick home that also serves as the van park’s office.

The windows have been taped up. The perimeter sand-bagged. Wheelie bins have been filled with water. And a generator is ready to fire up if the power goes out.

“All the guests are gone. We evacuated them. We don’t want the responsibility of lives,” Ms Townsend told AAP on Monday morning.

But when asked about her own, she said: “I’ve been here for 20 years and quite a few cyclones have come through, and we’ve never had any damage at all, apart from trees down.”

With Cyclone Debbie expected to make landfall as a severe category four storm on Tuesday morning, some residents are doing as they’re told, and evacuating vulnerable areas.

But others, like Ms Townsend, remember all too well what happened six years ago, when the destructive Cyclone Yasi hit north Queensland.

She doesn’t want to find herself in the position of a Cardwell caravan park owner, who lost so much back then.

“The roofs blew off his cabins. He could have saved a lot of stuff, but because it wasn’t someone’s house, the SES wouldn’t tarp them, and they wouldn’t let him back in to do it,” she recalled.

“He lost a lot, not during the cyclone, but after it hit. Stuff he could have saved. And that’s part of the reason why we’ll stay.”

Ms Townsend says she’s done everything she can to prepare for Debbie, and the 260km/h winds and potentially devastating storm surge the cyclone could bring.

“We’ve prepared as best we can. We’ve done as much as we know. We’ll be fine,” she said.