Cyclone Ita was coming for us. A cyclone is a southern hemisphere hurricane. In the northern hemisphere, the winds rotate counter-clockwise; in the southern hemisphere, the winds rotate clockwise. A cyclone is just another word for the same amount of wind, rain, and potential destruction, and Cyclone Ita was a Category Five storm (the highest, most destructive category) where it spun to the east of us, out at sea.
On the Atherton Tablelands, we are far enough inland that we could expect the cyclone to decrease significantly in intensity and begin to fizzle out once it reached land. But cyclones of recent years, such as Cyclone Larry in 2006 and Cyclone Yasi in 2011, created a lot of damage in their wakes, affecting our area with high winds (during Yasi, the winds ripped the roof off of one of our cabins) and lots of fallen trees. So to play it safe, we enacted our Cyclone Plan, packed up any loose outdoor items into our classroom, and brought mattresses down to the common room in the main Centre building to spend the night there.
Minus a very smelly common room, the first night locked away from the rain and winds wasn't so bad. The power was out when we awoke, so the interns and I made pancakes, fruit salad, and scrambled eggs by the light of our headlamps while a student brewed a giant pot of homemade Chai tea. We ate our delicious feast on the back veranda, somewhat sheltered from the rain.
The power was out for a good portion of the day, so we spent a lot of time reading by the light of our headlamps, taking naps on the many mattresses on the floor of the common room, working on background reading for research projects, and stepping outside for some fresh air. The rains continued, and soon the area around the Centre building was flooded. We donned our gumboots to go outside and document the flood waters.
We ended up spending another night in the common room. Once it hit the coast, Ita slowed down significantly, taking much longer to reach us than originally predicted. By the time she arrived, she was only a Category One cyclone, and other than the flooding, there was just some wind and rain. There was no destruction, and students survived the cramped quarters with movie watching, cooking, and even a dance party.