Cyclone Devastation of Reefs

Almost exactly a year ago Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossed over our house in the northern Whitsunday region. This huge category 4 storm was moving at a walking pace and we had destructive winds for about 24 hours. These winds destroyed our house, which has now been repaired and is stronger than before, but they also destroyed our local reefs.

Our favourite shallow fringing reefs around nearby islands have been completely devastated. Most of the more fragile Acropora and Montipora coral has been torn off, broken up and deposited in a huge rubble bank on the reef flat. Larger corals have been damaged and partially broken.  Huge boulder corals, some of them over eight metres across, have been dislodged and turned on their side. The power of the waves kicked up by the 300+ km/hr wind gusts packed by this cyclone was almost unbelievable. It will take many years for the reefs to recover.

On some reefs fast growing algae has seized the opportunity to grow and cover the bare bottom and this will probably slow down recovery. Although some corals have survived, especially in the deeper parts of the reef, all have suffered damage to varying degrees. 

We have before and after photographs of many of these reefs and I will post some here to show the scale of the reef devastation.