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Cyclone Tracy
eye witness accounts

Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin with such awesome force that most of it was wiped away, below are some chilling eye witness accounts...

Tracy 1974 #1.

I was only 11 when Tracy struck Darwin and kicked the crap out of us. At home with my Grandmother, with my parents working their guts out at our Deli, called Mario’s, in Nightcliff. My Grandmother and I were alone and isolated. We had no power, no phone and no idea if we’d get through it. By about 10pm the winds were howling and things starting to fly. I recall speaking with my mates about Tracy and we all bravely concluded “no way! It’s just another warning”. Well not this time. She came in like a bloody freight train, ripping the guts out of everything, creating chaos, taking lives, smashing her will into and through anything that stood in her path. She had a fury that I’m sure only God could understand. I’ll never forget the bending of steel power poles, corrugated iron sheets flying past like jets, timber bearers spearing through homes, fire hydrants exploding from debris, pets left to destiny, Christmas parties ending in death, green ants disappearing for years, trees left standing totally devoid of leaves. Creeping out from the ruins in the morning, thinking I’d gone back in time and was crawling through Hiroshima. One thing that will always remain in my mind is that bloody incessant car horn that pierced the storm, only to herald the death of a bloke up the street whose windscreen had been shattered by a piece of tin and smashed into his chest. With the wind catching the iron and slamming him up and down onto that damn horn. Yep Tracy, what a girl. Merry Christmas you Bitch.

By Paolo Fermi from Palmerston, Northern Territory

Tracy 1974 #2.

Darwin may have still been a bit wild in the days of Tracy, but there was an understanding amongst locals. You knew how far to push and when not to. When the Federal Government decided we needed more police and sent the Feds up this way, they must have come up thinking they were riding into a Western. Most of the lads were fantastic. But I’ll never forget the night my Dear Mother (Mamma) told me to go downstairs to get a tin of peeled tomato out of one of the rooms, whose only entry point was now via a hole in the wall, as the door was smashed and blocked. Torch waving frantically left to right because of that blasted ‘boogey man’, this beckoned the feds like moths to a light. Before I knew it two burly federal police were dragging me kicking and screaming down the driveway. God if only I had a camera when my mother turned the corner screaming her head off at them. They just let go and stood there stunned. No wonder Mamma was affectionately known as “that red headed bitch from Nightcliff”. God Bless ya Mum and the rest, cause they’re all gone to party up yonder now.

By Paolo Fermi from Palmerston, Northern Territory

Tracy 1974 #3.

What about Christmas morning when we finally made it out to the shop, a 10 km drive that only took about 2-3 hours. Well we were so bloody lucky it was unbelievable. We were sure the front glass would have given way and the roof would have peeled because the building was built…well economically let’s say! We made it round the back of the shop trying to find an entry point as some how the shop front had withstood the onslaught. As we got around the back, to our amazement the shop had been shredded much like a cat getting it’s ass stuck in a blender. The 3 brick thick wall against which all our cartons of grog were stacked had been peeled back and there were cans everywhere. If you were an alcoholic, then you would have been walking into Paradise. Clambering over debris we crawled into what was left of the building, a lot more than we expected, let me tell you. We made our way through wiring, hoping not to get fried, but there was no power, so no need to worry. The winds were still strong, but nothing like hours before. Yet the grating sounds of metal, concrete and debris flapping in the wind chewed your nerves to the point of snapping. Here we stood in the middle of our shop, our future and surveyed the landscape. We knew what was coming, we knew there were rogues out there and we knew our shop had spewed it’s guts of grog. Time for shot guns for we could smell looters in the air.

By Paolo Fermi from Palmerston, Northern Territory


Tracy 1974 #4.

Several days after Tracy caressed our lives, we were again making our way through the shop, our shop neighbour Mrs Savvas made her way in. The Savvas family had and still have a shoe shop next to where we once were. They were terrific people and I bet that hasn’t changed. As Mrs. Savvas made her way in, She and Mum hugged each other with tears in their eyes. The Savvas’ shop was pretty lucky too, maybe the economical building regimes weren’t so bad after all. Mum in her generosity always asked people how they were and if everyone was ok. The Savvas’s lived at the end of Smith Street before going down the hill towards Gardens Oval and the old Darwin tip and then Caravan Park. Long after the days of the Aboriginal burial grounds and well before the heady days of the Casino. Well Thank God, the Savvas’ were all ok and between stories of survival and near misses Mum just gestured toward the shelves and told Mrs. Savvas to help herself. Appreciatively Mrs Savvas set off on a genuinely free shopping spree. Mum decided to pop out the back for some reason. She only got as far as the Coolroom and as she turned the corner, came face to face with the barrel of a shot gun. Some cops had driven past and seen Mrs. Savvas doing some ‘shopping’. Mum was greeted with a “what do you think you’re doing?” and responded like lightning with “you mean, what do you think you’re f…g doing, get off my property and NOW!”. Things were starting to shake themselves loose, Darwin had already started her metamorphosis. Looters, shooters, mass dog culls, insurance scams, change was afoot and boy has there been some changes.

By Paolo Fermi from Palmerston, Northern Territory

Tracy 1974 #5

Not long after Tracy left her calling card, we had made our way over to our Aunty Gail and Uncle Seppy’s place in Millner (Rapid Creek). We often went around there for the usual BBQ’s and get togethers. But this time we were visiting to see if everyone was ok. Aunty Gail was our shop Manageress and started with only about 6-8 weeks of work in mind. 11 years later she retired, so to speak, after an amazing input into both the shop and our personal lives. Suffice to say, we called them Aunty and Uncle for a damn good reason. They were more than just friends, they were family. Anyway, as it so happened, when we were around at their place, Uncle Sep was telling us how their Dalmatian had wandered off sometime ealier that day around Rapid Creek, only to return later with a severed forearm in her mouth. Uncle Seppy had a bit of a ‘background’ as a croc, buff and roo shooter, so this didn’t come as a shock to him. Somewhere in the proceedings I seem to recall Seppy nonchalantly saying he’d better take the arm down to the local cop station as being a shooter he wasn’t keen on some-one being left arm-less. It was funny how we made light of such serious situations, but when the chips were down there was a need to keep a keen sense of humour.

I remember keenly when Uncle Seppy told us how as Tracy was bearing down on them, he was lying on their double bed, with Aunty Gail and Robyn huddled up together between mattresses in the hallway. At some point Uncle Seppy decided to get up to check on the ‘girls’. No sooner had he raised himself up off the mattress than a piece of timber pierced the roof and came screeching through the ceiling and straight through the bed, exactly where he had just been laying. It hit so hard Seppy said, that it went straight through the bed and smashed into the vinyl covered concrete floor, sending splinters and timber everywhere. Seppy had had to make some pretty quick moves in his life, as a shooter to save his skin, especially from huge crocs and buffs, but this move was definitely one that saved him from a force stronger than any croc or buff he would have ever faced.

By Paolo Fermi from Palmerston, Northern Territory


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