Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Under the weather
So you might have heard things are a little soggy here in St George. All the water from the flooding further north in Queensland is making its way down the river system, and the Balonne River is swelling. The river is expected to peak on the weekend at 14 metres or higher, which would apparently see 80% of the town affected (that could mean inundation of houses or just backyards). It's looking likely the water levels will exceed March 2010's "once in a century" flooding in town. Then, the river rose to 13.39m and spilled across the Terrace, the street which runs alongside the river. A number of homes were inundated along the Terrace.
Some people had only moved back into their flood-damaged homes a few of weeks ago. Now they're again building levee banks and sandbagging in an attempt to resist the floods. Three days ago, on Saturday, the river was just level with the bridge and creeping into the riverside parkland. It seemed funny to see playground equipment in puddles and picnic tables surrounded by water. Today levels reached 12m. You can't get within a coupl of blocks of the bridge for all the water - streets leading to both ends of the Terrace are closed off.
There's an overload of information - constant updates on ABC Radio, news coverage on TV and updates from the Bureau of Meteorology online. Rumours are swirling and everyone has a different opinion on what will happen. The floods last year ended up peaking at a lower level than the dire predictions, so many people I've spoken to are sceptical that these floods will be any worse. Others are packing up their stuff and filling sandbags. No one really knows what will happen, and while we are fortunate to have time to prepare (unlike those up north) it's hard to know what to prepare for. Mum wants to move our piano to higher ground; Dad reckons it's a storm in a teacup.
The hospital was evacuated today, the nursing home will be evacuated in the morning. The state primary school has been sandbagged. Nearby Dirranbandi is expected to be isolated for a month. All day the sky stutters with choppers - both news crews and emergency services. The SES are running a ferry service for people who live on the other side of the river, whose access to their work and supplies from town have been cut off with the bridge. Almost all other routes into town are also cut - so we haven't seen many fresh vegies for a while. Meanwhile all the grapes that are being harvested at the moment look like sitting in storage here for some time. I've even heard a rumour that one grape farmer whose vines are in a lowset area has been sending out his pickers in a boat.
Humid days have built into electrical storms the last couple of nights, and there are rumours of big rain coming tomorrow night or Thursday. Last night the power was cut off and the entire town was in blackout until the early hours of morning - hence no posts yesterday! I was driving back into town around 8.30 as the streetlights, and every other light in town, suddenly clapped out. It was quite eerie. It's really something, though, to watch a storm roll in amidst pitch blackness - a blanket of cloud extinguishing the stars one by one.
But for now life goes on as usual - albeit with a lot more traffic along the Terrace as the locals go stickybeaking! Marauding kids swim in what was once the riverside ampitheatre; a family sit watching fishing lines where there was grass a few days ago. And we wait.