Redback: Supporting a community through Cyclone Jasper

Published On: July 5th, 2024|5 min read|

Living in Far North Queensland has its perks – the pristine beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, and the incredible rainforests sure have their charm. However, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows Up North – literally. That fact was felt by many in 2023, when, just before Christmas, Tropical Cyclone (TC) Jasper made landfall.

Jasper’s carnage was felt from Townsville to Cooktown and beyond. Among the severe storms, lashing rain and high winds, the humble town of Rossville – just North of Cape Tribulation and the Daintree – was at nature’s mercy.

But, with the assistance of a sturdy Redback all-in-one system, the Rossville Community Hall was able to persevere through the storm, and stand proud as a place of refuge for displaced community members.

Tradesman standing in front of a crowd of people with a Redback Smart Hybrid system on a yellow wall

All images supplied by Brad Smith

Before the rain

Rossville is a small Cook Shire town, with a lush ‘country-town’ feel, mixed with picturesque scenery, and a resounding sense of community. At the heart of that community sits the Rossville Community Hall – a local meeting space with a kitchen, tables and chairs, toilets, a playground, and picnic tables. The hall has long stood as a space for birthdays, weddings, events, community gatherings and most importantly – a place of refuge during natural disasters.

In early December of 2023, Brad Smith, the then-president of the Rossville and District Citizens Association, collaborated with the Association to have the Rossville Community Hall equipped with an adequate backup supply – just in case.

“We wanted to add some resilience to the Community Hall as it is a refuge for weather events,” he said.

Then, with the help of Cooktown-based installers Cape Crusaders, the Rossville Community Hall had its very own Redback system installed – Australian-engineered for Australian conditions, and equipped with in-built blackout protection. Little did the District Citizens Association know how perfect their timing was – as three weeks later, that Redback system was put to the ultimate test.

A disaster for the ages

Image showing widespread flooding due to Tropical Cyclone Jasper in Queensland's North

Tropical Cyclone Jasper is renowned as the wettest tropical cyclone in Australian history. First appearing on meteorologists’ radar in early December 2023, TC Jasper quickly developed into a Category 4 system. By the time it made landfall in North Queensland, TC Jasper had deteriorated to a Category 2 system, but, its devastating force was not to be underestimated. Between landslides, an impacted water supply, submerged roads, high winds and catastrophic flooding, North Queensland was considered a disaster zone.

Having made landfall on December 13, 2023, TC Jasper ‘hung around’ for around a week. But effects were a lot more than that. Before the cyclone hit there were widespread power outages, and even into 2024, community members are still hard at work repairing their homes.

“3.8 metres of rain within 72 hours”

TC Jasper’s effects were particularly felt in Rossville. Brad Smith said that the town received “3.8 metres of rain within 72 hours”, which caused considerable damage, quickly. With an entire area being slammed by history-making rainfall, immense pressure was put on the Rossville Hall to support the community.

The day the cyclone made landfall, Brad swiftly posted in the local Facebook group ‘Rossvillians’, letting community members know that the hall was “open for anyone who needs shelter”, with “backup power ready to go if the mains drop out.” Over the coming weeks, community members and support crews took him up on that offer.

A group of people sitting on plastic chairs looking at weather forecasts on a large TV screen

Redback ‘didn’t miss a beat’

During the first few hours of TC Jasper, grid power remained spotty, but connected. But, as heavy rain and wind soon turned into flooding, the grid inevitably failed. From there, the fully charged Redback system’s Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) swiftly kicked in, and began supplying vital backup power to the Community Hall’s essentials.

“We had refrigeration, lights, water, and other essentials running so the hall could be used as both a focal point for community refuge, but also as a dropoff point for communications equipment, food, and clothing,” Brad said.

“There were times when every powerpoint was loaded up. While the town was dark, people were even coming by saying ‘how come you’ve got power?’”.

It was crucial for the Rossville Community Hall to have a steady power supply. It’s where everyone gathered and felt safe, so keeping the lights on wasn’t just about running things smoothly—it also meant keeping hope alive in the community.

“The mental health service that systems like Redback’s provide is absolutely fantastic. Under duress, the system performed so well.”

Overall, Brad was impressed with the system’s ability to withstand the wild weather, while providing a precious utility to a town in need.

“In the circumstances that it was, I can’t believe how well the Redback performed – it didn’t miss a beat and everyone was impressed.”

A community prepared

While the Rossville Hall continues to remain a community refuge and local meeting centre, the presence of the Redback all-in-one system offers a next-level addition to the popular Rossville spot – reassurance that backup is available when the grid fails.

Flashing forward to now, many community members continue cleaning up their homes, while downed trees and eroded dirt tracks stand as a stark reminder of the power of Mother Nature.

In that vein, Brad is working with officials and advocating to have Redback systems installed in two other key locations in the community – Rossville State School, which has an oval to enable helicopter landings in future largescale weather events like TC Jasper, and the Rossville Rural Fire Brigade headquarters.

A large group of people lining up to enter a hall to escape poor weather

Redback Technologies extends its well-wishes to Brad Smith and the community of Rossville – we sincerely hope the community is healing following TC Jasper’s presence – our thoughts are with you.