Thursday, February 9, 2012

Floods and Helicopters

It all started on my birthday, a week ago. Driving rain bucketed down incessantly, without hardly a pause.
The creek, when it is raging. (It normally looks like this. Yep, that picture is of our creek too.)

The previous evening, Mum and Jana had carried/dragged the goats through the high, (but not yet) raging creek. We'd brought them up to a three-sided shed, to keep them out of the water that was pouring into their normal shelter, on the other side of the creek.

It had been pouring for days, and still was. Mum regularly checked the weather online, in dire hopes that it forecasted hope. Instead we just came across more stories of local towns inundated, and thousands of people being evacuated. Dad was stuck in this town.

The sun had not been out for days. Not very helpful when solar is your source of power. And when the last drop of full for the back-up generator, has been used up. The fridge and freezer became bacteria incubators, after being off for a few days. I emptied the fridge out, reasoning that it'd be a little cooler outside after all. But, it still wasn't enough to keep the food from going bad.

"What we need is the SES, girls!" Mum informed us, worriedly.

"Really? Why?" I asked after coming inside from milking a goat on the veranda (to keep out of the rain.)

"We need fuel for the generator and hay for the goats."

"They're not going to bring us that, Mum!" we protested.

We girls brainstormed. Surely it wasn't necessary. But the rain kept up. The goats had to stand on planks and other objects to keep out of the mud. Worse than this uncomfortable state of affairs though, was their obvious hunger. We have plenty of grass for them to graze on normally, but the rain was driving and the wind chilly. Only few succumbed to their hunger and ate the water-drenched greenery, despite being consequently saturated. Others shivered under shelter.
Mum was right. We kind of really did need the hay. And definitely fuel too.
"How will we get the SES to come?" was the obvious question next.

Just call them? We wished we could've. The phone was out. Dead due to the deluge. It had been out of order for a few days, and it coming back on anytime soon was obviously unlikely. The roads were all closed. No way a Telstra technician would get out to the exchange. Thankfully, the inverter had a enough power to run the laptop and internet. Mum was able to put a request for someone to call for us, on a HS forum. A lady volunteered to do it. Many messages exchanged with questions and answers for what the SES had asked, the message was that they would come. We weren't quite sure just when though. Would it be in the night? Or the next morning?

It turned out to be neither. Cherith had to get hold of them once again, with the repeated request. Fuel, please! They were busy with evacuating people and air-dropping food. 18 helicopters were in service for our area, alone. The local town's river peaked (this morning) at 10.5 metres, covering the main bridge and flooding the town. Wow! Maybe our situation was not that desperate, after all. The rains continued. The question came from the SES, "Do you need to be evacuated?" We talked about it for a quick moment. Our answer? "Definitely not!" Why? Well, were would we be taken anyway? To a cramped town hall? Our house itself is high, so not in danger of being swamped anyway. I certainly preferred the thought of my own bed to sleeping on the floor of a hall, without any bedding (as some have had to do.)

The hours crept by. Schoolwork and chores occupied our time. But then, did we hear it? It was different to the unusually regular sounds of airplanes passing. The whipping of blades could be heard. The clouds were thick. We could see nothing. We paused our lunch and hurried to the window straining our eyes and ears for anything. The thought excited us! Maybe it was for us! The sounds died away. Our hopes did too. Obviously, it wasn't for us.

Once again, the dim light of a cloudy day, dissolved into the dark of night. We settled down to sleep. There would be hope tomorrow. The forecast was for far, far less rain. The thought of it made me smile. The rain stopped that evening, before I went to bed. The silence! Strange. So different! It caught me by surprise... so quiet! That was however, until I stepped outside onto the veranda. The same rushing of water. It was the creeks - or raging currents, as they had become. Inside though, the noise ceased. I had a peaceful sleep.

Friday. The SES... was it going to finally come today? The phone rung. It was my brother. After finishing her conversation with him, Mum called Dad. The first time she had been able to hear his voice since Sunday. Relief washed over both of them. When the phone call ended, and she was going to call another child, she realized the phone -- once again, was dead.

Communication returned to being only possible, through emails and chat. Cherith called up the SES. She was chatting to us while she was on the phone.
"Do you need any food?" she repeated the question.
"No, just fuel," we answered again.

On second thought though... actually we could do with some. We were out of carrots. Soy milk. And more. How would we get food though? When Cherith had tried to order food from Woolies, over the phone, they had given us the condition of needing a cheque book. Well, neither of us had one of those. A food drop, was impossible. Or so we thought.

Soon, the phone was back on! Yay! And this time, for good. Mum called the SES and explained the dilemma. Well, Coles was a different story to Woolies, we discovered. Yes, they would take your card numbers over the phone, SES informed her. On the phone with Coles though, Mum could hardly believe how good they really were about it. Not even card numbers were wanted. "Just pay us when you are able to come in next!" a worker told her. Mum was shocked! She began giving her order. "Just wait, I'll grab a trolley and gather it up for you," he offered. He then proceeded to get together Mum's order.

A few hours later, we heard that loud chopping of the wind. This was it! We knew it.
We ran to the window, this time seeing the blue and silver object come over the trees.
"Grab the camera, girls!" Mum suggested. There was a definite excitement in the air. We didn't hesitate to obey.
I stayed on our veranda and captured it coming in.
Mum and Jana ran to the other house where it was landing.
After snapping this picture, I followed suit. The wind almost knocked the breath out of it.
The grass on the side of that hill was blown flat.
Not quite. But I had certainly never been that close to a helicopter before. With the spinning blades being about 20 feet long (or more), it was like standing in the wake of a mega-fan.

It was an amazing experience. And now, I would love to join the SES (State Emergency Services). But in the meanwhile, I'm grateful to God for the blessing of living in Australia where we have such services. And I'm grateful too, that His hand was over us during this flood. Oh, and for giving me life for as many years as he has. (How long that is, my friends know and you can guess. ;)
Me, Jana, Mum and SES volunteer.
You can see how windy it is by the way our hair and clothes were being blown around. :)

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad that God kept you all safe during that time, including the goats! And happy birthday for last week!


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