I know the rest of the world is going on - but I am still trying to comprehend what went on a week ago, and what is still going on in so many communities near to me and near to my heart.
This is a bit of a mind dump - I need to get it out of my head because I need to make sense. However, I don't expect anyone to read through and I have turned off comments because it isn't about that. It is about sanity and trying to find my own firm, dry ground.
On Sunday, the 20th of January (was it that long ago?), tropical cyclone Oswald, a category one (the tamest) cyclone formed and was set to cross the coast between Kowanyama and Arukun up in the Cape.
We drove back from Granite Glen, where the heat and an unexpected whirlywind (which twisted a large pool umbrella into modern art and deroofed some 50 year old stables, yet left clothes on the line 30 metres away) were the main topics of conversation.
We went to a child's birthday party, where the heat and lack of rain were mentioned.
There was no ominous music or cutaways to what was in store.
On Monday, the 21st of January, Oswald had crossed the coast (causing a fair bit of damage in transit - but hey, aren't they used to that up North?) and the Bureau of Meteorology had declared it an "ex"-tropical cyclone, which was to quickly become a rain depression and either head inland and drop rain, or head out to sea and possibly reform.
We bought school stationary and contemplated the end of the school holidays, anticipated visitors and the return to school.
On Tuesday, the 22nd of January, there were reports of a tornado in the wake of ex-tropical cyclone over a weather station near Mackay, which was declared "interesting" but, while the North were experiencing rain, it was January and they have complained of the lack of monsoon compliance up there recently...
I worked and verified holiday plans for visitors. V bought a heap of groceries to cater for the impending hordes.
On Wednesday, the 23rd of January, Rockhampton started to feel the full effects of Oswald's depression.
Here, it was hot and we awaited the arrival of our visitors with glee. When they arrived (with campervan, very new Australian and dog, plans were made to swim often at the beach and festivities with other friends and neighbours. There were a few showers that evening.
On Thursday, the 24th of January, Oswald had caused some flooding in Gladstone.
As the rain had started to get a little more determined here also, a friend from Melbourne staying in 1770 and I agreed to monitor the situation before she came South for a barbeque we had organised for the Friday. I had a job interview and a carful of teenagers who got to visit the local Art Gallery and Library for fun (the beach being not so much fun).
On Friday, the 25th of January, Oswald had started offering us a lot more rain, and it was starting to affect a few surrounding areas. As I knew rain was hitting the catchment area pretty hard, and also that of a river that regularly cuts the highway at Gympie to the South, I advised our visitors to go home early so that they could actually get home.
On Saturday, the 26th of January (Australia Day), we agreed with our lovely "86 year young" neighbour that we would still have a barbeque and they would come over to join us, bugger Oswald. She and her visiting daughter were to arrive between 12.30 and 1.00pm.
I spoke to my mother on the phone, and she advised they had received a great deal of rainfall at Monto, and many old-timers were saying that they had never seen the water rise so high on the flats.
We had the barbeque set up under the house and the dining table all decked out for our "Bugger Oswald Australia Day" celebrations.
At about 20 to 1, the howling winds and torrential rain seemed to stop - we hoped that our guests could take advantage of the lull - when all of a sudden the wind resumed with what seemed to be double the noise and velocity. Then all the electricity went out and the howling winds and torrential rain continued.
I checked my mobile - I have a new u-beaut mobile, so was able to see that the bowls club where we had our wedding reception - 2 blocks away - had been demolished by a tornado. I was able to speak briefly to my sister and let her know we were okay.
The neighbours eventually got over here (in the howling winds and torrential rain) so we still did hold our "Bugger Oswald Australia Day" lunch, but had that whole doomed feeling that perhaps Oswald had buggered Australia Day.
Sirens and emergency vehicles raced past from time to time. There were rumours of trees and cars being severely damaged - at least one with people inside. I flicked on my phone from time to time to get a Facebook update, but tried to conserve the very low battery. We had my daughter's iPod to try to get some digital radio news.
We were advised that there was a high possibility of more tornadoes - not that we could do much, as we had no power, the rain and high tides ensured we had no driveway and the howling winds and torrential rain just kept on keeping on.
That night, there were several times when the wind increased noise and velocity - and we hoped to goodness that it wasn't hitting homes, people - or us. We were lucky. A few near by communities were not.
Things we have now learned:
- Turn off wi-fi connections and synching (apparently) on your u-beaut mobile phone so it won't run out of battery in hours
- Ensure you have a good supply of the right size batteries for your radio so you can get updates
- Have an old-fashioned plug into the wall phone in case the power goes out to keep contact with the outside world
- Make sure you have some cash, candles, water and long life milk at the ready
- Update all important phone numbers in an old-fashioned address book from time to time, so you are not reliant on phone memories
We also have a list of things that we will have before the next emergency. We also now acknowledge that the possibilities of a "next emergency" are higher than previously thought.
On Sunday, the 27th of January, we still had howling winds, torrential rain, no power, no driveway and no phone. I did try to remind my loved ones that we had a roof, sewerage and running water.
We had to have the doors and windows all shut tight against the might of Oswald - which is a very hard thing to live with without fans or distractions.
Soon after arising, the headache forming behind my right eye turned into a full-blown migraine - I get two different types, this one was the sort that meant I threw up whenever I put anything into my stomach (like water or panadol) or whenever I moved.
V got to experience all of the joys of being the sole coherent adult in a house with a toddler who didn't really understand, a teenager who sort of understood (but was having to deal with the privations of very limited iPad time) and a wife who kept trying to be stoic and upright, only to race off to the bathroom and crawl back to bed in defeat. Did I mention thank goodness for sewerage and running water?
Gradually as the day went on, the wind and rain came in waves rather than constantly, and then there was patches of blue sky, and then the water level went back down and then the sun came out and pretended like nothing had happened.
I felt "okay" by mid-afternoon, and rewarded V by taking the girls out of the house for an hour or so while I tried to scout out some ice (THANK YOU to the local petrol station for ensuring the town supply of that), recharge options (lucked out as the half of the town with power was the half of the town on the OTHER side of floodwaters) and information (no go there either).
We saw some devastating scenes - not just the bowls club, but houses, houses of friends, shops and trees. The path of the tornado was actually quite narrow and very definitive - but I am not sure what Standards would be required to withstand what had gone through.
We went to the park, where there was a yacht against the rock and a few very shell-shocked people wandering around. Our town is a beachside holiday destination and it was a long weekend. Not the relaxing holiday many had planned.
Monday, the 28th of January was a public holiday. It was sunny and bright. We still had no power, and no news - and the freezer full of meat that was so promising when anticipating visitors started to look more like a loadstone.
Luckily, I bumped into a lady I knew through 'Salina's old school whose power had been restored the night before AND she had room in her freezer, and so the majority of the meat was saved. The rest of the day was an enforced defrost of fridges and freezers.
The road to the other side of town were also reopened, so my phone and 'Salina were recharged at a friend's place and some much needed social contact was re-established.
At 4.05pm, the fans came on and a jig of glee was danced - so many luxuries brought by electricity were welcomed back into our lives.
With electricity was access to news, and this was the first we learned just how widespread and devastating the floods were. Towns under water. Roads washed away. At the same moment our power came on, hundreds of people were advised to climb onto their rooves and wave for helicopters as the local river broke its banks and entered homes at the same rate as the main river flow, estimated at 70 km/hr.
Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald had also wreaked major flooding and devastation amongst many communities to the south of us, and was working his way through the northern region of New South Wales.
It is so hard to process what has gone on around you when you are cocooned for so long and thrust back into a world with a whole new set of stresses - truly huge stresses for many - and you just cannot grasp. You need background, you need context. I have spent days trawling through old stories trying to see what happened, what I missed.
I know other people have moved on. Oswald was old news, last week. For many in the nearby town, Oswald will forever have an impact - but for me, I am lucky. I didn't lose my house, my possessions
- just, it seems, a bit of my cognitive ability and grip.
Edit edit edit.
Welcome to paradise.
I have turned comments back on after a few people contacted me - but I have also turned comment verification back on, because the last thing I need to deal with right now is acknowledging the fact are spammers outnumber people...