Two years ago , just as the new year started our river city copped it with an incredible downpour. After years of drought and water restrictions it was overwhelming. Then the river began to rise. And rise. Flash flooding which took cars, houses and people. There were people stranded on rooftops, people who lost everything, including loved ones.
I have friends who were affected, their houses flooded up to the eaves and all their belongings a sodden, muddy, stinking pile of unusable mess once the water subsided. It took most of them until very recently to get back into their homes, back to their lives, after recovering from the trauma, then cleaning and re-building and dealing with the endless paperwork of insurance claims. So when the rainy season kicked in this year, no-one thought it would happen again.
The rain kept coming courtesy of a tropical cyclone which slowly worked it’s way down the entire coast of our state, then kept moving southwards impacting more and more towns, cities and people.
We have a long weekend in late January. It’s the last weekend before the kids go back to school and the thought of being stuck indoors with three little boys after six weeks of holidays – lets just say it was not blowing my hair back.
So I made plans to take the kids up to the property where we sometimes go to get away from it all. The kids can have some boys own farm fun, I can get a bit of a break as the hosts Chris & Karin help out and support me in my effort to remain sane (tough gig!).
On the morning we were due to leave I had a chat with them. The rain was coming down quite fiercely at this point but the roads were still open so they said, if I was game, so were they. Off we went and arrived there without any trouble at all.
The property is right in the foothills of the Great Diving Range, with views to forever. Not that day. The boys were really happy to be there though. They didn’t care about the views.
In the photo, you can see that Chris got his tractor going – much excitement and quite a bit of terror from one of my boys. Luckily he parked it where the kids got a great view of it from the veranda – so lots of tractor talk.
As the day went on it became clear that some towns were being severely affected and many people were having to evacuate. It still seemed hard to believe that we could have another flood in the city. Being out in the country you feel a little removed, but the rain kept coming and so did the winds with very strong, cyclonic gusts of 100k’s plus/hour.
I knew we would be fine. We had a tractor for one! But on day two when I started running low on nappies/diapers and it looked like we might get stuck, we decided to pile into the 4WD and go and take a look at the situation. Could we get into the local village?
This is what we found at the bottom of the hill.
Still not worried. The local farmer had a couple of little kids, so we dropped in to their place and I borrowed a few nappies and promised not to return them. All good.
Then we lost power. OK. Facebook was running hot at this point with friends keeping each other informed and family checking in as the situation in town was looking more and more like it was going to flood. Friends were packing their belongings, sandbagging their properties and doing whatever they could to help. The charger in the car was very handy at this point, keeping the phone powered and the kids even sat in the car and watched a DVD (thank you Wiggles for that 30 mins of respite).
Chris & Karin are extremely organised and got one of their generators happening and lent another to some neighbours. There was no telling how long the power would be out.
The following day the rain started easing, the cloud started lifting. Although many people had been flooded out in some of the towns to the north of the capital, the city held on. Collective sigh of relief.
We decided to go for another drive to see if it was going to be possible to get back home. We got through the areas which had been raging with deep water the day before. At the end of the dirt road you can turn left or right. This is what was we found to the left.
There was one of the local men there with a bulldozer (as you do!) clearing the road. There was still a LOT of water coming over the road. Amazing amounts of debris – trees, big rocks and mud!
The boys were amazed and awed by all this nature. It was still quite dangerous though, with fast flowing water and unstable roads. In the other direction, it was even worse! A whole bridge had been taken out and the electrical poles were on the ground, running through the water. The power wasn’t coming back on anytime soon. What had been a small creek and become a massive, erosion zone the size of a football field. Nature is powerful.
We decided to go back to the house, pack up and attempt to get back home. As we were packing, I looked back towards the range and this amazing rainbow was dancing across the foothills. You can’t really see this in the photo, but there were enormous landslides. Massive areas where the trees had been washed down the range and through all that bushland to end up on the side of the road, stripped of all their leaves and small branches, naked.
We made it back. There was a bit of 4WD’ing in my two wheel drive car, but we got through and made it back home safe and sound. It was an eventful weekend, full of natural wonder and human challenge. It certainly made the preparation for back to school a breeze. All the screaming and noisemaking I had been enduring from my big boy calmed down and for that, I was extremely thankful. I was also very thankful that so many, especially those friends of mine, were spared the pain of another flood.