I wrote my first update before the major peak which was published at Mamamia, you can read it here. This is the follow up.
Size, as it turns out, does matter. Of your flood peak, I mean.
I’m choosing to laugh about all of this because if I don’t I might just cry into my pillow for several days, pausing only for sustenance and the occasional soothing wine.
Here are the things I know: Brisbane is devastated, my little patch of the river is not. We were spared, perhaps by sometimes-weather-system and full-time trollop La Nina, perhaps by the Wivenhoe Dam holding on for just that little bit extra or perhaps by the tendencies of locals in my suburb to be so high on their own achievements and self successes that this proved to be a natural flood barrier, I am not entirely sure.
I should clarify. Spared from inundation to the building, yes – although water came within inches of bubbling up through the drains – but not spared from the associated trauma, sleepless nights, mental and physical exhaustion or, indeed, from having the power go out.
Our building manager was exhausted, you could hear it in his voice, when he popped on to the internal address system to let us all know that the power to Teneriffe had been cut and that we should all go, now. You know the tone of voice. So tired, so sombre. Shocked almost.
It sounded almost like we were the last remaining Capricans in Battlestar Gallactica and that the voice on the loudspeaker was informing us that our home planet had been over-run by Cylons. Well, it was a bit static-filled so it was an easy mistake to make.
The morning started with angst and strained shoulders as we relocated my friend’s entire apartment to mine, which made my apartment look rather like it had crashed at high speed into a house. All the while the river began to rise.
There is a highly enterprising businessman who runs a restaurant on the corner of my building, right on the river, who decided to remain open until the very last minute. And this, folks, afforded me one of the most surreal and batshit insane moments of my life.
It was mid-morning and we popped in for bacon and eggs and sat watching the puffy and swollen Brisbane River surge toward the bay, taking everything with it in its path. So there I was in one restaurant when I spotted another one splashing and twisting down the river. It was, ironically, called Drift restaurant and it had been sunk the previous day quite a few suburbs along.
There were boats, more boats, pontoons, trees, eskies, a fridge at one point and countless Styrofoam boxes (from where?) just swept along at a rate of 10 knots...the river normally flows at two.
Around mid-afternoon the river finally broke its banks for its first large peaks, spilling water over the footpaths and into the bus depot down the road. Minutes later they would cut the power to Teneriffe to stop us getting electrocuted in the event of a flood.
I could hear a car alarm that seemed to be 20 kilometres away pierce the air but otherwise a cold, eerie silence that suffocated. I have never felt so uneased in my life. Lies. I felt more uneased moments later when the deafening roar of two Blackhawk airforce helicopters flew low and loud overhead. I ducked to the window. My city was in crisis, here were the army to prove it, now it feels real. In that single moment the enormity of what is unfolding is made abundantly clear.
There is not much to do in a power-less building that may be enveloped by floodwater in the night so we took some uncooked sausages to a friend’s place, charged our phones, cooked the food and then returned. Because somehow this felt like an adventure we had to stick out.
The Blackhawks flew over again in the darkness of the night, a soundtrack to the misery of a city.
But here is the thing. Teneriffe didn’t flood. Well, the water came up the road in one spot and certainly over the banks but it didn’t flood our building or any others I could note. The river peaked at a metre less than forecast and it is very easy for me to sit here as I type this without any power or news to believe that Brisbane is all ok.
I know this is not the case. Already, the day before the peak, this was a city in chaos and underwater and the clean-up will be astronomical, judging only by the expense of things I have seen float down the river and out to the bay. This morning we saw 150m of riverside boardwalk bob down in a twisted mess. The CityCat ferry services have been substantially destroyed, business are underwater, homes, roads, bridges.
Our Premier was not beating about the bush when she said this, for all of Queensland, would be a reconstruction effort similar to the one we had post-war.
As for me, well, we have to relocate my friend back into his apartment at some point. I think I just stubbed my toe on his wardrobe. That’ll have to be done. But not now. Right now all I want is a nice meal (I had one miniature, cold sausage and a slice of bread for breakfast), a sleep and a written guarantee from Mother Nature herself that she is through fucking with Queensland.
People died. People have been broken.
We’ve seen enough.
Update: I’ve walked just minutes up the road to New Farm and the damage is obscene. Water has come up through the main shopping district and the water has torn a 150m slice of the Riverwalk, weighing 300tonnes, and sent it rocketing down the river like a missile. How selective our river is indeed.