Not a WoW post today, sorry.
Since Christmas I’ve been watching the news coverage as the northern half of Queensland floods. Keeva over at Tree Bark Jacket struggled to get by as major towns and highways were cut off by flooding near her home. I’ve logged into WoW a few times since Christmas checked up with my guildies living up north: they seem to have avoided the worst of it.
Never did I think my own city and my own home would flood. Welcome to Brisbane, Australia.
Right up until Monday night my brother (handy to have a dam engineer in the family) assured me “No, Brisbane will be fine. Do you know how big Wivenhoe dam is?” (and yes, he’s that condecending in real life).
I’ve spent my entire adult life living in a drought, living within strict water restrictions, taking 3-4 minute showers and buying washing machines, dishwashers and shower heads based on their water efficiency. In September 2010 we took a day trip out to visit Wivenhoe dam to mark a joyous occasion: after hovering at extremely low levels (10-15%) for years the dam had finally reached ideal capacity (100%) and opened its gates to let excess water run downstream.
100% capacity means that we have more than enough stores to run the city’s water works. But the dam can store almost double that amount of water. And that’s what it has been doing. But by Monday night, after months of rain, the dam was at 190% and the Brisbane River was already high. Unexpected flash flooding hit Toowoomba and other smaller towns only an hour or two away from Brisbane. Unfortunately most of the deaths caused by the floods occured that night. Parents died trying to save their young children.
I woke up the next day to phone calls and visits from concerned family and friends. I live not 100 meters from the Brisbane River in one of the suburbs that went under first in the last Brisbane flood (1974). My townhouse is built up over three levels, but like so many modern apartment blocks, they dug down into the ground to cave out that lowest level with room for a garage and study.
I started packing. The internet was the first to be switched off (it’s down in the basement study) and I packed up as much as I could and moved it up a level. At that time I expected only part of the lowest floor would go under.
Only a few hours later the news reports changed. Residents were warned to expect the flood to exceed the height of the 1974 flood. I started the much more difficult task of moving what I could from my main floor up to the bedrooms on the top floor. The lowest level inner city suburbs were already being evacuation. And I wanted to be out of there before they shut my power off.
I feel like I moved house in the space of half a day. Under the water (I was soaked from the rain) I’m sure I was soaked with sweat.
Right now I’m staying with relatives high up in the mountains on the outskirts of the city. I didn’t sleep very well that first night (the high tide was at 3am) so we drove out to see the damage first thing in the morning (not an easy thing when so many roads are covered over or closed off).
Half of the lowest floor was already under water. With reports suggesting that the river would continue to rise 1 – 1.5 meters higher over the next two days I left convinced - resigned - to the fact that I would likely lose the second floor of my house: the bathroom, kitchen and living room.
But someone up there is looking kindly on me. I woke up this morning with the news that the flood had reached its peak and not risen as high as expected. With a mere 20 centimetres to spare my main floor is entirely untouched. That’s the depth of just 1 step on the staircase. Talk about a close call!
I can’t tell you how happy I am. This is probably the difference between covering the costs of repairing the flood damage with my insurance… and having to find tens of thousands of dollars to make my home livable again.
I wont be able to return home until it’s safe and the water has completely receeded – hopefully by the start of next week – and then I’ll be looking at a few weeks before my suburb is put back on the grid and the power comes back on. Gosh knows how long it will before I can have my electricity and network cables fixed – they were all wired into the floor that is flooded – so I doubt I’ll be back to blog or play WoW for a while yet.
Finally I just want to say that we’re lucky, as a city, that we had as much advance warning as we did. I felt that I salvaged as much as I could. Most people have been very helpful and, as far as I can tell, most people evacuated long before the police were called in. I hope we don’t see nasty behaviour such as looting (I know 3 people have been arrested, but hopefully that’s about it).
It’s estimated that 13 000 – 20 000 homes have been flooded in the city alone. Please open your hearts and your homes to those who have been displaced.
Most of the wreckage was moved out of our lowest level on Friday and Saturday the 15, 16th. Volunteers are everywhere … making me wish I hadn’t worked so hard to clean up myself (my friends and family had pretty much done most of the work by the time they arrived). One of my insanely organised neighbours is calling in favours left right and center: we had a generator (for power) and a high pressure water hose on Saturday which was amazing.
It’s a bit unknown whether or not I’m covered under my insurance policy but I’m not too worried because the government is forcing all insurance agencies to accept claims. I think they plan to step in and pick up some of the bill if they insurance companies refuse to.
My “untouched” main floor is covered in muddy foot prints and it’s driving me crazy. Yet I’ve discovered that I’m happier when I sit on my messy, empty, ground floor without power than when I’m staying with relatives and have access to hot water, cooked food and the internet. “Home” means so much.
There’s something wrong with the power in my group of townhouses (the primary?) and also at the street level. No electrician can start to evaluate my place until Energex rebuild whatever is wrong on the street level – at the earliest 1 week away. Lathere (one suburb away, and high up) is still without electricity. The houses on the other side of the street to her have power!
There has been some mad, but inventive, brainstorming sessions on what could be done to really flood proof the townhouse: everything from one way drains to water tight walls and doors. The truth is we’ll probably just rebuild what was lost without many improvements simply because it’s cheaper. Which is boring and uninspired.
Oh, yeah, the only material that really comes through floods well is concrete and solid wood.