ON THE SPOT: Factory St, Pomona is awash after Oswald dumped on the town.
ON THE SPOT: Factory St, Pomona is awash after Oswald dumped on the town. Patrick Williams

Wi-fi, fries and news

A McDONALD'S outlet is an unlikely place to find journalists filing stories, photos and video.

But free wi-fi made the fast food joint the backup newsroom and APN group online editor Mark Furler and myself after we lost internet connection for a few hours at our Maroochydore office.

Desperate times called for desperate measures on Sunday, January 27 when the Sunshine Coast bore the brunt of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald.

Weather events like Oswald are some of the biggest stories a newspaper and news website can cover because everyone is affected.

Everyone wants to know the basics - who, what, when, where, why and how - and it was our job to give it to them no matter what.

That Australia Day long weekend, and the days that followed, showed just how reliable the news could be in times of a major weather event.

When Oswald was finished, locals started the clean-up in Mary St, Gympie.
When Oswald was finished, locals started the clean-up in Mary St, Gympie. Renee Pilcher

I knew when I woke about 5am that Sunday to the frightening sound of strong winds battering my bedroom windows that people would want to know exactly what was going on, how long it would last and what had already happened.

I wasn't even meant to be working that day, but then I got a call about 7am from weekend editor Damian Bathersby to come in and lend a hand with coverage for the website and the next day's paper.

Furler was already in the office. Massive weather events like this always drive traffic to our website and it was important we had the best coverage possible for our readers.

Early in the morning Sunshine Coast Council's website, obviously inundated with heavy traffic, crashed under pressure.

Sunshinecoastdaily.com.au kept going through the worst of the storm.

As people woke up to see the rain, the wind and the damage caused, we had developing stories on tornados, airport closure, rainfall figures, along with emergency contact details, what we knew on closed roads, the latest from council's disaster management team, any rescue efforts, photo galleries, videos and more.

It was everything you would need in the situation the Coast was in.

Our extensive coverage paid off.

Across the APN group we had eight million views for that week, while Sunshinecoastdaily.com.au experienced triple its usual online readership.

We also kept in touch with the community via our multiple social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Our Facebook page, now with more than 95,500 followers, was the place to be for up-to-date information and to get people talking.

Energex workers repair lines on Buderim-Mooloolaba Rd.
Energex workers repair lines on Buderim-Mooloolaba Rd. Patrick Williams

We passed on all the important information needed, and in return our followers sent in their videos, photos and stories to be part of the story.

One of my first jobs that morning after observing the damage for myself in Mooloolaba was to record a short video of myself describing exactly what had happened that morning.

It was just 40 seconds of me talking in my car on the damage to the beach, the environment and anything else I saw that morning.

From my iPhone I was able to upload it directly to Sunshinecoastdaily.com.au, along with about a dozen photos taken from my journey so far.

It wasn't until the next day that I learned that video had nearly 13,000 views.

It just goes to show who you can rely on when weather events like Oswald smash the Coast.