Winds gusting 150km/h caused some damage to the station’s mess hall, but with the right skills on station the team worked together to stabilise the situation.

Strong winds, a bump in the night and a new job to do!

A bump in the night was an early wakeup call as westerly wind gusts of 150km/h hit Macquarie Island Research Station at 0500 on Saturday morning.

The gusts ripped off two sections of the mess roof and the debris flew across the station. The two roof sections landed across the court yard; one hitting the ground next to Hass House and the other bounced over the surgery roof hitting the ground next to Cumpstons Cottage, both accommodation buildings.

After a few minutes of confusion as to where the roof sections had come from, we sprang into action. The power and site services were isolated to the mess building, the debris was weighted down and the bucket of the excavator was used to secure the next section of roof. We mopped up the water that had pooled across the mess floor from the site services lines.

We were lucky; no one was hurt, the roof hadn’t collapsed, the damage was contained and our kitchen and medical facilities were functional.

Our initial response plan was to stabilise the roof, remove debris from across station, complete a damage assessment of the whole station and assess any environmental impacts from the winds, debris and the storm surge. We also needed to keep various business as usual functions running including the weather station, Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA monitors UV radiation here) and maintain communications with those in the field.

This is the advantage of having an A-team on station including all the trade skills we needed. The team pulled together with a ‘can we fix it, yes we can’ attitude and our initial response plan was up and running.

Saturday was still very blowy, so this gave the team time to do the prep work and all important safety assessments before a full day of action on Sunday. For the roofing, this included erecting scaffolding, replacing rafters, braces and battens and securing a tarpaulin for weather protection.

The weather gave us a one day window to secure the roof before the winds increased on Monday and gale force winds getting up to 135km/h returned on Tuesday.

The team did a fantastic job, well done team! The tarpaulin has held and we’re now getting on with the repairs.