Brisbane floods

Thursday

I saw a tweet earlier today along the lines of “I don’t like living in interesting times”, and I thought it was amusing. Referring to the alleged Chinese curse which from memory I don’t think is real, but is very clever nonetheless, “may you live in interesting times”.

Sometimes an idea will get stuck in my head, a wordplay usually, and repeat over and over until I put it into the world. Throughout the pandemic my little brainworm is a similar corruption, “you may live in interesting times”.

Among other world disasters, the one a little closer to home right now is the effects of La NiƱa on East coast Australia. Earlier this year the Bruce Highway was washed away by flooding near Tiaro, and just yesterday a freight train derailed on the north coast line when the track washed away. We’ve had a lot of rain.

Yesterday the ABC made passing reference to the Brisbane River catchment, which put me on edge. My place is in a low lying area and while I think technically it’s above the council’s flood level, I don’t especially want to risk it. I was pretty annoyed that it was mentioned in a single article with no follow up at all, so I suppose we’re probably not going to flood? I’m sure I’d know about it.

It’s been on my mind because I was planning to visit my parents this weekend, the weekend of my birthday. But between the rail catastrophe and breathless news reports advising people not to travel, I’m sort of thinking I’ll stay in after all.

Anyway, I’m doing fine. Just really aware of the emergency fatigue that’s probably got everyone to some degree.

So I’m sitting outside in the dark wearing trakky daks, hanging out with my plants. There’s the white noise of raindrops hitting the leaves in the garden and pattering down onto the courtyard. A streetlight across the road lights up the sheets of rain as they blow past. And occasionally a car will drive by and make the cosiest wet asphalt sound you can imagine.

I do like the rain.

It’s cosy.

Gezellig.

Reminds me of the summer storms in my childhood home, beating down on a tin roof so hard you could barely hear each other talk. Looking out the window at a wall of water while being inside, safe and dry.

We may live in interesting times, but at least there’s comfort in the familiar. I don’t know if I’m going to see my parents tomorrow, I suppose I’ll have to make that call to the QR support line. In the meantime, no point worrying right?


Friday

A screenshot of the message from QR travel: QJ11 Tilt Train 25 Feb is cancelled with no alternate arrangements. Another notification forecasts rain.

The train line is still out. Now the highway is out.

Deep Creek (ironic name, it was a trickle when I was there) has gone over the highway. This kinda blows my mind.

I know Gympie floods, I read as much when I visited last year. All the riverside infrastructure is concrete and brutalist to survive the water going over it.

At Alford Park, there’s a massive great flood marker showing where all the historic floods have reached. Pretty scary stuff.

Anyway, it’s just weird because that road bridge is SO high I would never have expected it to go under. At least that’s the decision made for me.

Undearneath the Bruce Highway bridge. It's suuuuper tall. There's old wooden foundations from what I can only assume is the old bridge.

Saturday


Sunday

I hardly slept last night. I kept waking up to check the river wasn’t lapping at my door. It wasn’t, but that just meant it hadn’t happened yet.

Tae lost power. She’s in a low-lying part of the neighbourhood. She came over to charge up all her bits and bobs and we watched TV and chatted for a bit. I fell asleep and slept for what felt like hours.

The rain still hasn’t stopped, so Tae decided to just make a run for it. I got drenched just opening the gate to let her out. I can’t imagine what it would be like riding in that.

The forecast is looking pretty grim, but the flooding is supposed to coincide with high tide tomorrow at about 8.


Monday


Tuesday

By the time I got up the street was already completely cleared. You wouldn’t have known it had flooded if it wasn’t for the people cleaning out the businesses that were inundated.

I was expecting to get out with my shovel picking up trash. But Peter told me the RCC Builders from the construction sites were all out cleaning up the streets in the early hours. I suppose it benefits them not tracking mud everywhere, but it’s such a nice thing to do. I’m very grateful.

The river is down about five steps at the end of my street. Enough to clear water from most of the streets around here.

Looking down a staircase into water and slick brown mud. There's still trees submerged, poking out of the river

I went for a little walk down Duncan Street way. I don’t know what to call that little precinct of West End but it’s the built up area, as opposed to the gritty sort of partially industrial area I live in. There were a lot of pumps running to pull water out of basements, and some that were completely full to the top.

Peter’s was full to the top.

He told me the building manager was here for the ’11 floods, and the painstaking lengths they had to go to to clean out the mud and debris from two levels of basements. I think the mud army can probably help, but it’s going to be days before that water clears.

His lift was out, and the emergency stairs led to deep water, so we had to climb a ladder from the lobby to get to the stairs, to get to his apartment. It’s the penultimate floor, which is ordinarily lovely, but absolutely destroyed me. I’ve been working on my cardio fitness, but apparently there’s still a ways to go.

I had my first hot shower in 2 days, and left a powerbank to charge, just in case. I also guzzled all the water in his jug because, as I realised later, I was super dehydrated from not taking care of myself the previous days.


It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m surprised to find I still have ice cubes. Most of them are stuck together, swimming in a puddle in the bottom of the ice cream container where I store them. But there’s a few separate blocks. I scoop em out and put them in my glass of warm cola.

Later that afternoon Peter, the ghost of Adam, and I went to a town hall organised by Jonathan Sri and Amy McMahon, council and state representatives, respectively.

There was a free sausage sizzle and people sitting around powerboards charging their devices. Real disaster vibes, but I think folks were largely okay.

Jonno and Amy on the mic, next to a portable loudspeaker.

It was a useful meeting. But the message I got was that while the flood waters are still up and there’s not a lot we can do until they go down. I get the feeling everyone just wants to do something but we can really only wait until we know more.

As I was walking home past the gym I noticed the lights were on.

“Great” I thought, I can go there for a warm shower.

Then I realised the lights were on in my building too.

There were people milling around the street outside one a that was still dark. A lady was gesticulating at the utility closet that had been beeping for two days straight, so I went over and offered to let them charge their stuff at mine. Her kid proudly told me how they’d been using candles and a lantern, it was cute.

There’s a kind of survivor’s guilt in all this, I try not to indulge too much. I lost power for a couple of days, and the basement that I never use got flooded with 30cm of water. That’s nothing, right?

But then I realise I’ve been amped up on stress for the past week, I’ve lost the contents of my fridge and freezer, my backpack and a pair of shoes are ruined because they just couldn’t dry out, I’ve got loads of washing strewn all in the laundry because they asked us to conserve water before the power went out, I have a sunburn and a caffeine withdrawal headache because I regularly forgot to feed or water myself while everything else was going on.

I don’t need to feel guilty because I got my damn power back.


Wednesday

The dishwasher and washing machine are humming away. I appreciate the breeze from the fan. It’s 31 and partly cloudy. Humidity is cloying. But we’ll work things out.

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