Whitsunday Times journalists Jacob Wilson, Inge Hansen and Dane Lillingstone with editor Sharon Smallwood at the makeshift Whitsunday Times office the day after Cyclone Debbie.
Whitsunday Times journalists Jacob Wilson, Inge Hansen and Dane Lillingstone with editor Sharon Smallwood at the makeshift Whitsunday Times office the day after Cyclone Debbie. Contributed

How we got two papers out in Category 4 Cyclone Debbie

NOT even a Category 4 cyclone stood in the way of the resolve of the Whitsunday Times team to keep the region informed.

And while borrowing a power inverter to keep the fridge running, Whitsunday Times and Whitsunday Coast Guardian editor Sharon Smallwood had a light bulb moment.

"We had friends staying with us last night who had to get off their boat, one had an inverter and we trialled a system of running the inverter through one of our company cars and it worked," she said.

"My first thought was that's a way to get the paper out."

 

An inverter was used for electricity by plugging it into the Whitsunday Times car lighter.
An inverter was used for electricity by plugging it into the Whitsunday Times car lighter. Contributed

On Tuesday as the storm was in full swing, Ms Smallwood said the team went through a tag-team process of posting hourly BoM updates and filing early damage and emergency updates online.

"In the eye of cyclone myself and our journalist (Peter Carruthers) did manage to get photos, I stress I don't recommend anyone go out in the middle of a cyclone, however the eye was over 100km wide so we had quite a time window to get out safely and back," she said.

"So we got those first damage reports, then after the eye passed over us and the other side of cyclone hit it got worse and worse so the devastation was magnified ten-fold by the time we got up this morning."

 

An inverter was used for electricity by plugging it into the Whitsunday Times car lighter.
An inverter was used for electricity by plugging it into the Whitsunday Times car lighter. Contributed

On Wednesday, the journalists met at the Smallwood residence and recharged laptop and phone batteries via the inverter connected to the car.

Amid the devastation, and now without water as well as power, the journalists shot videos, took breath-taking photos and talked to the local people who went through a rollercoaster 24 hours.

Ms Smallwood said she was proud of the on the ground effort of the team with a diversity of "cracking" stories filed.

"There was a terrible story on looting of an Airlie Beach restaurant and a really gripping story involving the two mermaids at Daydream Island which were washed off into the sea," she said.

"The team also put together fantastic photos and videos on Airlie, Proserpine and Shute Harbour, great photos and videos."

Ms Smallwood also thanked the company's head office team in Queensland's south-east for jumping in to the rescue with uploading stories and images fast and sharing content from other news rooms.

While the Whitsunday Coast Guardian went out to press on Tuesday logistical issues prevented the publication from getting to the Whitsundays, however a solution is being worked out to get both papers here as soon as possible tomorrow.

 

Whitsunday Times journalists Inge Hansen, Dane Lillingstone, editor Sharon Smallwood and journalist Jacob Wilson working in their makeshift office today.
Whitsunday Times journalists Inge Hansen, Dane Lillingstone, editor Sharon Smallwood and journalist Jacob Wilson working in their makeshift office today. Contributed


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