Sounds of the flood

Wednesday – 12/01/11
After all those days of pounding rain, we woke to a sunny, dry morning.  The news was that we had no electricity, the low-lying shopping centre down the road at Bellbowrie inundated in the night, and the river was yet to peak.  All day yesterday the house had been full of the sounds of the rolling news programmes – many repeats of the Toowoomba flash flood, and hourly repeats and updates of Anna Bligh’s news briefings.  Now, without TV or radio, there is a big silence in the house.  The frogs have stopped their rain-croaking.  The church hall has a sign out the front: ‘Flood Refuge Centre’.  At midnight last night we stood on the balcony and looked across a little valley – Kangaroo Gully Road – to lights at the primary school.  A steady clopping, like rain on a tin roof, sounded from the main road along the ridge.  There must have been twenty or thirty horses being moved to higher ground.
Helicopters move purposefully across the sky – thump thumping on their different notes.  Dave likes to spot Black Hawks, Chinooks; even a Sea King goes over.  An orange-yellow one is the RACQ emergency chopper, and a blue one says Channel 10 News.  The SES (State Emergency Service) has its own as well. 
In this strange peace, the Sunday sound of a lawnmower rises up.  A man across the road is mowing his grass.  No-one can get to work from here, or shop, and the central business district seems to have closed down.  News comes to us sparingly, in Maddy’s voice, as she summarises what comes through on her iPad.  The car radio is our main source.  The waters are supposed to reach 6.5 metres tomorrow.  Today they are at 3.5 – tomorrow, they say, is D-Day.
Dave plays the Muppet theme on the piano, and later Ross picks up his guitar.  Old fifties and sixties pop songs are his favourite – Harry Belafonte and ‘Island in the Sun’ – and some Sai Baba songs. 
Wednesday night:
We dine by candlelight, on a marvellous Thai prawn curry cooked by Varni.  The prawns are out of the freezer, still iced solid, but even so it seems sensible to eat up the seafood.  We talk about Dorothea McKellar’s poem ‘My Country’, and when it was that we first realised what it meant.   The solar-powered garden lamps are useful in the loo overnight, so that Grandon, night-waking, won’t get lost or stumble around dangerously with candles.  Typically thoughtful and inventive of Dave.  And so, an early night for all.  I find that one can read perfectly well by the light of a candle. 
We are rocketed from sleep about eleven by an unbelievably thunderous pounding roar close overhead – it feels like bombs going off at least.  The overwhelming sound has me pulling up blinds and fumbling at the door-catch in a blundering sleep-waking urgency.  It sounds like Armageddon, but it’s a helicopter landing.  It lands in a space marked out by police car headlights, over at the primary school, and from the balcony I watch figures moving to and fro in the bright lights.  Most are wearing the generic SES orange outfits.  When the chopper’s engine stills, the clip-clopping sound floats over from Moggill Road, the same as last night.  Can it really be horses two nights running?  There are big equestrian establishments down towards the ferry, and down along Prior’s Pocket Road, but it seems unlikely.  Maybe I’m just hearing some kind of distant frog.
Back to bed.  The chopper putters off soon, and fairly quietly, but leaving an enveloping stink of aviation fuel over everything.

Thursday morning early – glorious sunshine: a true Australian blue, green and gold day.  The gardens and and bush land, well watered, are as fresh as fresh.  Cicadas are buzzing quietly and the blinds click in the light breeze – an irregular, metallic sound.  The birds sound relaxed – skreeking, gurgling, twittering.  From here, the floods hardly exist, and we are marooned.  Without the voracious omnipresent images from TV and radio, they easily slip into the background.  Occasionally a helicopter passes overhead, bringing reality into focus.
Living in someone else’s house, and so competent as they are, one can’t help feeling a bit of a passenger.  Even the car radio wouldn’t work when I switched it on.  Varni is sweeping, tidying, watering pot plants around me, sitting on the sofa.  She won’t accept help.  We go to look at the flood levels – at Moggill Ferry, where one of the holding cables has broken; then at Bellbowrie shops which are well under water.  Drifts of people are out walking about with their children and their dogs, taking photos and marvelling at the power of the water.  We know that Wivenhoe Dam is releasing massive quantities down its spillways, and much of  Brisbane is going under.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Sounds of the flood”

  1. valkyrie1 Says:

    This made my hair stand on end.

    I listen to radio news in the morning, and occasionally follow something up online. That’s how much reality I can bear. When I was talking to you on Monday night and you said you’d been to look at the floods, I had no idea the extent of what you were talking about.

    On Tuesday morning I woke to news of the seven deaths they knew about at that stage.

    I hope things are getting back to normal where you are. For all the fascination of the silence and what comes up from it, I hope someone has bought a battery-operated wireless!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: