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Archive for January 2nd, 2011

2011 – An Update and Theodore Floods

Posted by TravellingStrom on January 2, 2011

Hi to all those that have read my postings on my travels. I would like to wish you all a belated Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. Belated because I have been a tad busy over this period with rain and flood events. I was intending celebrating Xmas with my family and a few necessities of life 😉

But that was not to be as there were not so happy tidings down here in my home state over the festive season. We have had massive amounts of rain over the past month or so and the ground is waterlogged. With the extra rain and a mini cyclone just before xmas in our rivers catchment area(The Fitzroy River), we are in for a major flood event which is still happening as this is posted on a rare day off. I will try and give you some idea of what is happening down here, especially to those family and friends of mine overseas and here in Oz who may or may nor have heard.

As a member of our local SES (State Emergency Service) which is a voluntary organization I have been busy for a long while with localised flooding and storm damage and I was even called out on Xmas day to help a chap who turned out to be the duty manager of my local pub!! It has been a very busy time for all of our local team, but as I was qualified with a flood boat coxwains ticket(and willing to go), I was deployed on Boxing Day with another fellow Vstrom rider and of course boat coxwain, to a small town called Theodore 2 hours south west of Rockhampton to help relieve the local SES crew who had been flat out for many days preparing for a flood in their town. All the water they were receiving would eventually arrive in Rocky, but not for another week or so, but our time here would be limited as we would most likely be needed back home soon to deal with our own flood event. So, on Sunday morning we headed west and spent a fruitless 5 hours trying to navigate around the county side by 4WD to actually get to the town, but were blocked on both routes by swollen rivers or fast flowing water over flooded crossings!!!

After returning to base we were then instructed to get weighed and we were then dispatched to the airport and a chopper ride and it was not a Harley either 😉 . A slight hiccup as the chopper pilot did not have the right card for the fuel bowser, so my partner used his plastic to fuel up and we finally headed out late afternoon.

The land was saturated and from the air this was very evident with most of the usually dry creeks overflowing and filling the farmers fields and paddocks and turning them into mini lakes, a very depressing sight.

We eventually arrived in the town of Theodore and were directed to a quite comfortable cabin by the river 😕

It was raining of course and had been for a long time. We met up with the locals and were given a quick tour of the affected areas and those that might cause problems, and were tasked to be on site at HQ 6am tomorrow, as our intended arrival today was nearly 10 hours ago. So we settled into a nice pub feed and retired early, although we had done bugger all today, it was still fatiguing just trying to get here. The pub was mainly empty, with just a few lonely pool tables looking for some action 😉

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We were up before sparrow fart, had some brekky and headed down for a Local Disaster Management Committee meeting, where we were tasked with that days work. Basically send all local SES people home, man the HQ, deal with all incoming calls from residents, hand out sandbags and start evacuating some people out in the outlying areas of town. One of the main tasks was to update the BOM site with river height readings and as the gauge was outside the HQ side door, this was an easy task to be done every half hour and a direct computer link to input data, the trend was RISING slowly, but surely. The one that effects us is the Dawson River at Theodore. While we were there, the river kept on rising and its peak was 14.67m a new record, so as you can see, it had a ways to go yet.

If you look at the rivers plot over a number of days(this is on the 3rd Jan) you can see on the 27th there were many readings taken(lots of blue dots close together), then the river got to high and the HQ was shut down with a foot of water through it and the occasional reading was phoned through.

This next picture is of great interest as it shows the Fitzroy river catchment, one of the largest in Australia. Looking at the picture, Rocky is at the bottom, the last town before the sea and the town of Theodore is to the left and up halfway. This is basically west of Rocky and South, the other side is the west and northern rivers that also flow through our town.

The town of Taroom (upstream a bit from Theodore) copped the rain after us and that water arrived in Theodore 5 days later after the water levels had fallen, this brought them to a new peak of 14.79m, another new record for this devastated town! This next shot is the roadway next to the pub, it is being cleared for a helipad in case it is needed.

In fact it was never used as the water rose and covered that overnight, the new helipad was located just to the left of picture along the main street in the center parking zones and at one stage there was 4 choppers landed there at one time. In fact, in the above picture, I tied my boat up to that pole on the right with the wheelie bin leaning on it!!! Some of my tasking later on during the day was to drive down where I could, with a local navigator and see which residents were needing help with moving gear and to respond to calls etc. Even at this early stage with just on 14m, the water was quite high and into some houses already 😦

So, after a long day, we were relieved and we managed to get to the pub for a meal and had another early night with the water moving steadily up towards our cabin, talk about river views!!!

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Well, so much for a nice sleep, we were woken at 1.30 am by our local SES boss, the water had risen to 14.2m, this was the trigger to evacuate the local hospital and move things to higher ground if possible, so, groggy with lack of sleep we headed off into the rain and then waded up to our knees and did the job that was required. The water had risen into the main street and was also starting to affect local businesses.

Around about dawn we were asked by the police to take them in the boat to start forced evacuations, mainly of those with medical problems or the elderly, because the town was now without a hospital and the doctors surgery was underwater as well. So, my turn to navigate down the local streets, and bring people out and at one stage it looked like I was going to need a bullbar on the front of the boat as a loose mob was looking for sanctuary!!!

Then a long ride out along the main road to Rocky to take out an elderly lady on the other side of the water, most of those along this road were taken out yesterday by my partner.

Once the lady was transferred to the evacuation center, it was back into the town itself because the word had come down from the top brass, evacuate the whole town, no one was allowed to stay because the fresh water supply had been compromised and there was a major risk of disease!!!

Once we had done the required tasks, we found we could actually tie up quite near the evac centre on the main street which was becoming quite crowded, but the choppers were on hand, about 7 of them and they were rotating the people out to a nearby mining camp accommodation, which are quite comfortable.

As the town was being cleared, we had been told to pack our gear and get ready to be choppered out, after the residents had all gone of course. It was lucky we checked out, we did not expect our salubrious river views to be actually INSIDE the room!!!!

But, after a fair bit of waiting, which we are quite used to, we found that we were staying another night as there is not enough daylight to get everyone out, that will be tomorrows job!!! And as my camera battery had gone flat and having left my charger at home, so ends this photographic record for the time being, the next stage is the Rockhampton Floods. We left mid morning the next day and were choppered to Thangool airport, then driven from Biloela to Rocky by an SES member. Our local crew were busy and had not stopped while we were gone, so we headed home for some much needed R&R, I intended tonight to be my New Years Eve as I knew what was coming this weekend!!!

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