SAME BUT DIFFERENT: Coleen Hill has vivid recollections of cyclones Ada and Debbie.
SAME BUT DIFFERENT: Coleen Hill has vivid recollections of cyclones Ada and Debbie. Peter Carruthers

Cyclone memories 47 years apart

FEW people have the experience of cyclones Ada and Debbie etched in their memories more deeply than Proserpine resident Coleen Hill.

On the evening of January 17, 1970, Mrs Hill's wedding reception came to an abrupt end as people evacuated from the beginning of Cyclone Ada.

And as Cyclone Debbie hit the Whitsunday Coast on March 28 this year, Mrs Hill turned 68.

While Cyclone Ada claimed 14 lives and no lives were lost from Cyclone Debbie, Mrs Hill put that down to better preparation 47 years on.

"We were more prepared and had more warning but Cyclone Debbie was still far worse than Cyclone Ada,” she said.

"Cyclone Ada was over by the next morning, while Debbie went from day after day and the big electrical storm was more intense.”

Ailsa Reinke from the Proserpine Museum agreed that Debbie was more destructive.

"I think this one was more intense, it seemed to be relentless and I'm surprised there wasn't more damage,” she said.

Mrs Hill said there was one vivid similarity linking the two cyclonic experiences together.

"Driving to Airlie after the cyclone and looking at the hills and seeing trees without their leaves and seeing the destruction out that way was similar,” she said.

While the damage bill from Cyclone Debbie is understood to be more than $1 billion, Cyclone Ada is estimated to have caused $12million of devastation - which, according to an Australian inflation calculator, equates to more than $133 million today.

Other estimates claim the damage bill would have been closer to $330 million in today's terms.