TravellingStrom

Riding to the end of the world, and beyond!

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Jan 13th Flood Update

Posted by TravellingStrom on January 12, 2011

Well, what a calamity!!!! Here we are in Rocky and have been inundated by a major flood for what seems like weeks, then suddenly, overnight a downpour near Toowoomba turned to tragedy 😦 Toowoomba is south of me by a days riding and west of Brisbane, our state capital and they had so much rain it created what is now called an ‘instant inland Tsunami’. I am sure you have all seen the graphic footage on the TV by now, so no need to go there, but our hearts go out to those who are still missing and to those families who lost loved ones, and of course to all those who lost their homes and possessions.

As a comparison, Rocky was braced for a 9.4m flood peak and we knew it was coming about a week prior, well Toowoomba took the same 9m flood height but nearly overnight! As I write this that water has moved downstream and has taken over the CBD of Brisbane with many suburbs underwater and extreme destruction once again being experienced.

Hopefully, no more lives will be lost, homes and possessions can be replaced, but I guess many businesses who built near the river may never recover.
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For those who tried to access my site over the past few days and got no pictures, well, apparently there has been so much traffic we all exceeded the free bandwidth allowed per month(1Gb), so I upgraded to Pro for a month to maybe see this event through, and BTW, todays post covers a whole week, so it may take a while to load

Meanwhile, back in Rocky I am on my 2nd day off, so thanks to those crews who came back down from the Mackay region to once again relieve us in the ongoing daily floodboat duties. Yesterday was basically relax and go shopping to get a few needed things and prepare for a bike ride today. I was going to take in the northern river crossing which never closed(Alligator Creek) and then a run around the coast, just to get some wind through my hair πŸ™‚ Sadly, it is raining, bummer, maybe later today then, or I may even go for a wet ride if there is no call out 😦 I had a relax last night with a few beers and rums while watching the T20 cricket(close game but once again the poms took the goods on the last ball), and was nearly called out for a night medivac boat ride, but I declined due to alcohol. Not a good idea driving a boat though an unknown paddock in the rain at night!!! I do know the roads out that way, but not enough to drive a boat over them πŸ˜‰

We should see some relief in a few days as the river at Riverslea is falling, which means by this weekend, the water should be low enough for the main road routes to be inspected and maybe opened to traffic. If you look at the following two graphs of river heights, one is falling and one is steady, well the steady one is Rocky and has been at major flood level for over a week. We are 3 days downstream from Riverslea, so as long as there is no more rain, it may all go away soon-ish.

So, for the past week I have been busy, same as the rest of the Rocky SES crew with the general things that need to be done when the town is cut off by water. I was supposed to get 2 days off from the 5th, but called in for an Ergon assist, basically the power company needed to measure the distance between the water and the power conductors on the high voltage towers, lucky for us they used a laser gadget, apparently the other day they used a pole!!!

Once that job was done I was stood down for the rest of the day, I took that opportunity, while wearing orange SES uniform, to go to the airport to see how the flood barrier was holding up, but due to water levels I decided not to ride the Strom in there!

OK, another place to check out was up at the Mt Archer lookout, after taking a photo of the railway bridge on the move I had a nearly great run up the winding road, a fair bit of debris and stuff from all the rain, and my knobbies are tad worn! From up there you can see that although there is a lot of water lying around, a fair bit of the town itself is actually dry. Now that the rain has stopped a lot of people are nearly back to normal, with the only reminder of the problem being the nearly empty shelves of the local supermarkets and of course the fact there is no access south or west!

So the sort of day off was a sort of relax, it gave my feet a chance to dry out a bit, they had a fair bit of infection from being constantly wet for over 10 days now but were clearing up with some nappy rash treatment πŸ™‚ Of course, I got a call asking about tomorrow and it looked like another early start, tomorrow being Thursday.

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Well, lucky I am a boatee because the heavens opened and it is pissing down!!! We had another Ergon assist this morning and crikey it was wet! This time it was to clear all the weed and logs from the HV pylons again, this is because they are designed for downwards pressure(compression) not sideways pressure(tension) and we need the power! There are a few dangerous factors involved here, not including electricity, and that includes the current flow from the river, bad visibility, barbed wire and snakes to name a few. We nearly had a snake on board when we tried to dislodge a tree branch, but we managed to avoid it.

This job always takes a few hours and although all you see is a bit of green weed on the surface, sometimes the root balls go for quite a few meters down and they are long and very tangled up around the lower steel. It can be quite tiresome, so lucky I stayed on board today πŸ˜‰

Later when this job was complete for the day we were tasked with some door knocking with the police(via boat) over in the Port Curtis area, which gave me a chance to take a GPS and record the tracks for other non-local people who may need to get there. There are a few tricky bits, underwater fences, low water over street intersections and fast cross currents etc, but slow and careful driving is the key word to navigate this successfully.

Some kind soul over this way saved some council money by tying the wheelie bins to the pole, well done πŸ™‚

Sandshoe Shrub, Boot Bush or T-Boot Tree πŸ˜‰

Another successful day, but a long one, they average around the 10-12 hours of work, so by the time you get some tea, do a debrief of the day and brief for tomorrow, then get home and shower, wash the gear it is time for bed, before another 5am wakeup!

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Another day dawns and more of the same, this time with a different crew member. The same old towers with Ergon and even though we had cleaned them, some of them were in the direct river flow so they collected more since the last clean. I had been a tad worried about the Ergon boys leaving the boat as they were my responsibility, but that was cleared up and I am only to transport them, the electricity assets are their responsibility and they can clean/fix/inspect how they like. But I was happy to see safety harnesses in use as then I would have a chance at rescue if the worst happened. Of course this is only while I am coxswain, if I am crew, I just sit and do what I am told and be a 2nd pair of eyes for the skipper πŸ™‚

We entered new territory today as we had been requested to follow the power lines until they crossed the main Bruce Highway south of Rocky. Before this we had stopped due to low water, but now after finding an unmovable underwater obstruction and marking where it was we came upon some cattle yards which were still full of cattle, very sad 😦 They were up to their necks in some cases, while on our other side, some poddy calves had been stranded without their mothers by the looks and were quite thin and malnourished! I called this into HQ and this would be passed on to the RSPCA for further action, even if it is only a bullet! A friend of mine that owns cattle told me the other day once cattle have been in water for a week, they are about stuffed and won’t recover.

So after a few more pylons we reach the end of the line, the next one is on dry land and just beyond it it crosses the highway. Later on we measured this run and it is a smidgeon under 20km, no wonder we use half a tank of fuel each time!

Just a couple of shots I took, one of a magnificent Ghost Gum and then next one looking towards The Range, a suburb on the south side near our main hospital. Most of this area is cattle grazing paddocks and are generally under about 3-4 meters of water(9-12ft).

We had worked our way half way back when we called back to do a different task. We dropped off the electricity mob and picked up some QFRS(Queensland Fire and Rescue Service) people. We needed to take them into Callaghan Park racecourse where they could assess a large capacity water pump, apparently a local sports club was fighting a losing battle and this may need to be lifted out by chopper. In fact they had already placed an order for both traffic bridges to be closed at 4.30pm so the load could be taken upriver. Well, the inspection went well, with the local racecourse manager showing us the clear channel through the carpark.

Needless to say, there were some issues with power lines right in that corner so the job was postponed until tomorrow morning and this time more Ergon boys would be needed to pull the fuses up the poles before the lift. The only other thing of note was that we had picked up a hitchhiker, I nearly chopped its head off when I lowered the boat motor. For visual reference, that is the hydraulic trim/tilt gear that lifts the motor and is attached to the back of the transom. It was only a baby brown snake which I managed to get out of there, it promptly jumped up on the trailer, but it fell off when we moved and we coaxed it into the bushes πŸ™‚

We actually had an early finish today, well it was before 6pm for a change, so there was time to go for a few Friday night beers at the local, not many though as another early Ergon assist was on the cards, as well as sorting out this pump pick up and fuse pulling.

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Another day, another pylon, and in fact it is the same one that is constantly picking up the weed. But today, there was only one job, get that corner pylon cleaned as much as possible and forget the rest. They really needed a 3m pole with a curved limb saw on the end but although they had asked for it, their powers to be had said no. We supplied them with a normal limb saw, but it meant getting right into the water again. All in all, they were both in there about an hour and pretty much cleared it down to a depth of a few meters. Now, pay special attention to the 2nd photo. We are tied off at the downstream leg of the pylon and even though we have the motor off and raised(to stop weed catching on the prop) we actually have to push the boat away from the structure to let the boys in the water, we are getting sucked in!!!! A bit of Venturi effect or some such thing I guess πŸ™‚

On the way back to the boat launch we inspected a different launch point, for when the water lowers a bit and spotted the smallest SES floodboat ever, it must be for cadets πŸ™‚

I just want to explain the words Boat Launch here. Normally here in Oz we call a place where we launch a boat, a boat ramp, because it ramps down and is used for boats. So, we launch a boat at a boat ramp. But, in my travels recently in the states, I noticed they use the words Boat Launch instead of Boat Ramp and to tell the truth, in recent days it has had a closer meaning to what I am doing, so I have refrained from using boat ramp on the radio and substituted Boat Launch instead, specifically because we are using a street intersection with a railway line as our launch point πŸ™‚

I am glad that is off my chest πŸ™‚ Another boat launch is in the main street that runs by the railway yards, there are many boats along here and once again this is where we launched two boats, mine(well not mine, but one I have been in for 5 days) and the tinny. We were tasked with crossing over to Port Curtis again with the police to do a welfare check and try and ascertain who is actually still in their homes and who has evacuated. We also had to take some media dude from one of the southern papers, but he had no control over where we went, it was the coxswains decisions and no money or beer would change hands!

There were quite a few other residents in this area as well.

Some boats work, some don’t and the local mine repair place had taken some more losses with quite a few more tyres outside the fence and working their way downstream. We also got called about an evac and when we got close to the house we found he had moved himself across to the local pub for a better pickup, his driveway was a nightmare of crosscurrents!

This is the normal mode of transport around these parts and with those little tiny electric hand held motors, it makes for tidy docking πŸ™‚

Now, I am sure he was expecting a higher level, but what a great idea πŸ™‚

It was a good call getting the job done so early today as I was looking for a bit of time off. My fishing club had decided to donate all proceeds from our normal Sunday raffle to the flood appeal and as I was secretary I wanted to get a bit more involved and was lucky enough to get home cleaned up and down the club by 4pm πŸ™‚ We(that is some of our members) had done some calling around and we had a heap of gear donated for the event so that was a great effort by them. In the end we raised $1,700 which was excellent so thanks to all those that were involved in any way and of course the patrons of the club who bought the tickets, it was very worthy.

Mind you, no rest for the wicked, I had to turn up again for another day tomorrow and there was talk of Tuesday/Wednesday off, I hope so, it gets tiring after a while!

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Well, today was a mixed day, first off the expected crew did not turn up, so that meant trying to find a replacement. This took a while, also we had other tasks to do besides the electric run, there was now a major stink because I had complained yet again about them cattle stuck in the yards and nothing had been done. So, today we were taking a police officer along to check on them, plus to check on a mob of roos stranded inside another location. Well, one thing can be said for doing the same thing day after day, you can learn the short cuts and also how to do things a bit more efficiently. So, same pylon run, but we had smoothed things out and now what we do is launch the boat, run at planing speed the 20km to the end of the line and take note of which pylons need doing, then stop on the way back and do them. The first thing we noticed today was the cattle in the cattle yards had gone!!

We spotted a tinny coming towards us and it turns out he was a local cocky who was feeding the poddy calves with hay as they were on dry ground, and it turns out the group in the yards had finally worked upstream against the slightly reduced current and managed to get out of the yards and headed downstream and were mostly on dry land about 2km away πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Because the water had dropped slightly, about 100mm or 4″ he also showed us a different way around the cattle yards and cut the fence for us, goodonyam8

So, the copper took all the details he needed and we got to the end of the line and started working our way back. Just as the boys started work on a fully weeded pylon we got tasked with a medical emergency, so we high tailed it across the paddocks and took an old lady back to the boat ramp as she had slipped and hit her head, she is OK though!

Then we checked out the mob of roos and passed on details about them, maybe they can do a food drop, although they look quite happy. I have been trying in vain to find my pictures, but I recall now that when I was driving these streets, there were cross currents so I actually never took any, never mind, imagine about 20 roos sitting around a tractor on a small hill surrounded by water in a fenced off paddock πŸ™‚ So, after about 5 hours, we finally got back to our starting point, 20km away at the end of the pylon run and the boys could start work, lol πŸ™‚ We picked up another few hitch hikers, nice ones this time and it seemed Trent was trying to emulate one of them while trying to keep his feet dry for a change πŸ˜‰

This is our new path back around the cattle yards, basically come out through one gate from the back paddock, down the road a short way, around the street sign, then in through the new gate the cocky had cut for us. It was a tad tricky because we were going downstream, which meant spinning around after the first gate, power on against the current to line up for this gate then back off and float through keep to the right of the windmill and turn left at the dead trees and head back to the electric corridor, you sorta have to be there πŸ™‚

Late afternoon and the job was complete when we got tasked to go do a welfare check on a resident who was still at home, but had very bad or no reliable phone connection over in Port Curtis. Well, we showed another boat crew how to get there then found that we were on the wrong side of the railway lines!!!!! In this next shot, if we had launched our boat from the main highway about 150m straight ahead, we would have been done sooner, lol!! πŸ™‚

This was the same railway lines we floated(and I use that word advisedly) across the other day then needed 4 others to help us pull it upstream! This time we walked and the water was up to my armpits before making contact with the owner, he was good and we worked out some comms protocol for futire use.

After dropping off the extra boat and directing them back to their boat launch near the railway lines, we took ours back across the river to find our car and trailer. On the way back we noticed that the red yacht that had been a navigation point for entry into Gavial Creek had finally broken its mooring and was now resting against a tree in the paddock below Gavial Creek bridge. How it missed the bridge structure itself or the other boat on top of it is a mystery! We met up with the water cops and I passed on information regarding the New Years Eve search, so they could trace the owner. It is OK, but how long for is anyones guess!!!

Well, another long day but we got a lot achieved and from what I have heard, Mackay had sent down another group of FBO’s(flood boat operators) and once I show them the power line obstacles tomorrow, I could have a few days off πŸ™‚

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Well, today was another aborted start, a bit of confusion as to who my crew was, I was supposed to be showing two Mackay FBO’s the power line run but in the end I only took one, but as he is an FBO instructor, hopefully he will remember everything. Mind you, yesterday, on the way back we did use fleuro tape on some of the water hazards and as we found out, the water had dropped another 3 inches, so some of the obstacles were now self evident. The Ergon boys are now so relaxed, they slept on the trip out!

Brian had brought a GPS, so he was making tracks and saving nav points, but it was actually quite easy. Once he got used to this particular boat he should have no troubles πŸ™‚ We saw quite a few snakes again today, this one was quite large!

Because we had plenty of time with no conflicting tasks, the boys decided to check each tower. Even though they looked clear, if they had not been looked at before, they were checked. In fact about 5 towers were out of the flow, so never showed any sign of weed, but one of these did have a different hazard, some type of plastic/canvas type of sign, maybe inflatable even? Anyway, we towed it away from the pylon downstream and released it.

And the only hitch hiker we picked up today was a small jumping spider on Brian’s hat πŸ™‚

We spent a fair bit of time on each tower and instructing on underwater stuff but were actually finished around lunchtime. And with the water dropping over the next few days, there may be no need of this task when I return on Thursday.

I hope you have enjoyed this episode, and if you would like to donate some money, time, or goods to the relief then please do so, I am sure they will be appreciated. It is a strange thing being in a country where we have always donated things overseas and now we may actually need some help ourselves. The whole of Queensland is just about a disaster area and some of that water is flowing into New South Wales now as well. For those in the US who know about Katrina, the area that was effected aver there was about 250,000 square kms, we have an area in excess of 1,000,000 square kms. Those are not my numbers, I got them from elsewhere, but they seem correct with the checking I did.

Anyway, until the next update, which will be the messy, smelly cleanup stage, keel side down! πŸ™‚

Cheers
TravellingStrom

2 Responses to “Jan 13th Flood Update”

  1. TSV-Strom (Pete) said

    Hi mate, thanks for the update. Horrid stuff that has been happening and it is so hard having to sit back and watch it happen and not be able to go and help. That is what we train for, but we all have to follow orders, and they haven’t been forthcoming to this stage. Maybe in time.

    I do have a question though (and being picky) about where Toowoomba is now. From your opening paragraph you stated .. “Toowoomba is south of me by a days riding and east of Brisbane, our state capital and they had so much rain it created what is now called an β€˜instant inland Tsunami’” .. I know there was a lot of water, but is Toowoomba really EAST of Brisbane now?

    Keep up the great work. Talk soon Richard.

    Pete
    (length of SES service identical to the day with Travelling Strom himself)

    • Yeah yeah, I know, but when I look at a map from up north here and look south, I see Brissy on the coast and Toowoomba on the right which is east, well, obviously I have not passed maps and nav just yet eh πŸ˜‰

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