Travel Log: How to Survive an Ex-Cyclone

28 Jan

(aka: Why I Thought I was Going to Get Spatula-ed)
(aka: Why This Blog Post Almost Wasn’t Posted On Time)

**Note! All ventures detailed below were done in pairs at least, touching no water except what was in the gutters, never getting near enough to the actual flooded areas to be a threat to anyone’s life, etc.**

In January 2011, I was in Brisbane for my own personal travel-writing J-Term. Read: my university made it possible to hang out with my now-husband and get credit for it. One day, we were walking along the Brisbane River and I mentioned that it looked a bit higher than the last time I was there. He just shook his head and announced rather proudly, “The Brisbane River has never broken its banks in my lifetime.”

A few days later, we were stuck on the Gold Coast because Brisbane was under water.

Let me just say that this time around, it has been raining for five days straight. Not a misty, drizzly sort of rain, but the kind of rain that could be lightly described as “pouring.” “Lashing” might be a better term. It’s been steadily beating at our windows, pounding our yard into mud, turning sidewalks into puddles, and absolutely decimating the mango population (which I guess is pretty okay for us since we’re now six  seven mangoes richer and know where to go if we run out of food).

I guess what I’m trying to say is, the power is out and I can’t get to the library to access the internet. And that is my excuse for the Day 3 (almost) lateness. I blame Oswald. Cyclone Oswald, that is.

Cal and I went for a walk around 3pm on Sunday to play in the puddles (again. We like playing in puddles, we’re two-two years old!). What we found was a rather sizable puddle at the bottom of the hill. Which covered the road. Which cars were struggling to get through. The usual stagnant puddles that made up a creek nearby had turned into a raging river. There was a storm drain by the bikeway that had turned into a proper spewing fountain, water was rushing at it so fast.

When we got back, housemates offered to drive us to Woolies to get some food. We were running extremely low, so we decided to go alone. Could barely see out the car windows, it was raining so hard. I already have a definite fear of driving and a slight fear of being in cars, which being carted around by the relative safety of public transportation for the past seven months has only worsened, so needless to say, I was pretty tense the whole time.

We bought loads of canned soup and such, things that are cheap and easy to make, and even edible in the case of no power to heat them up. One of the housemates had the foresight to buy a gas cooker, which helped out a lot since about five seconds after we got home the power went out. What do five internetless twenty-somethings do without electricity? Play in puddles, of course.

Five of us trooped out into the rain. Wind had picked up by that point, bending trees and uprooting a couple of them. I’ve never seen so much water rushing in gutters. It was over ankle deep in some places, and flowing so fast I couldn’t have kept up with that frangipani I dropped in the whirling wet if I’d tried.

We went back to the “puddle” in the road first, only to find that it had turned into a proper, actual lake. We saw a bus turn around because it couldn’t get through. The reason for the lake was soon made clear — that creek that had turned into a river wasn’t flowing under the road like it was supposed to, but over it instead. On either side, the Nudgee Junior College grounds were completely submerged, with bold ducks splashing happily in their new swimming hole.

Then we walked back to the bikeway, which couldn’t described as a bikeway so much as an actual river, flowing halfway between my ankles and knees. That storm drain I talked about earlier was completely submerged. We walked through the tunnel beneath the motorway, which was dripping on the inside with a waterfall on either end (kind of cool, actually). On the other side half the road had been turned into a river too, flowing so fast it was going straight over the storm drains, which after some inspection didn’t look to be blocked or anything. Then there’s the lake that used to be a park, and another pond-creek-type thing that doesn’t usually have much more than a few inches of water in it, about ready to flow over onto the road, too.

As we walked back home, the rain was like bullets in our faces, and we decided to settle in for the long haul.

TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE AN EX-CYCLONE:

1. Remember where you put the headlamps from the last time the power went out, so that you aren’t searching for headlamps without a headlamp.
2. Make sure your scented candles complement each other.
3. Assign one person to “cat babysitting.” This involves someone sacrificing their fingers for the sanity of others, while the cat does parkour on the walls. Cats will sometimes develop this ability after five days stranded indoors. If the cat’s name is Thor, he will be especially confused about why it is raining without his permission.
4. Put plenty of towels around your fridge before it gets dark. You will slip.
5. Duct tape over all light switches and buttons. You will use them. You will flick them back and forth wondering why power isn’t coming on. And then you will remember, and you will be sad.
6. Invest in tension rods. Install tension rods all the way down the hallway. When you come back inside after a few hours bouncing in the puddles, you will remember that you do not have access to a dryer, which requires electricity. You can then hang your sopping wet clothes in the hallway.
7. Do not play in the puddles too much. You will run out of clothes.
8. Hope that it does not rain in the living room. A dog named Gills would probably annoy the cat.
9. Play Trivial Pursuit. It might be the most frustrating of the games, but it takes up more time than Monopoly if you have the 1987 Australian edition, and a camp light can sit very neatly in the center circle, giving a clear view of the rest of the board.

We all went to bed a bit early last night, exhausted from our puddle-pouncing. Of course, sleep was tentative–there were tornado warnings for Brisbane, and the wind was howling, and the rain was still falling in sheets. Our house is so poorly insulated that despite the windows being closed, the blinds were still clanking against the windowsill in the breeze. But we fell asleep eventually with the hope of power in the morning.

No such luck. I woke up around 6 because it as bright outside and I didn’t have a working clock handy. The cat, who we kept in the other room, seems to be in sync with people’s breathing patterns or something, because he started crying soon after I decided I probably wasn’t getting back to sleep. Fed him, checked time, groaned, flicked a few light switches, groaned again, started writing this in a notebook, became cat-babysitter and have the gouges in my hands to prove it.

Cal woke up soon after, probably wondering what the heck was happening as the cat tore off up and down the hall. Not knowing what else to do, we headed out to check on the various flooded areas. The rain still hadn’t let up. I had the sense to wear my jean shorts this time, which soaked through in seconds, but they weren’t nearly as heavy and clingy as the various pajama shorts I’d been wearing on my other ventures out. Everything had gone down, which was a good sign. We played poohsticks in the river at the bottom of the hill, which was now flowing under the hill. And by “stick” I mean “giant piece of bamboo that I couldn’t fit both my hands around and was almost as tall as I was”). Also, walked along the creek for a bit and found the sign from the front of our yard that said “For Rent.” A few days ago it had toppled over and Cal hauled it under a tree and put a brick on it. Alas, Oswald had other ideas.

I admit today has been a struggle. We were bored. After a few rounds of Uno, housemates all left to various other dwellings, and we were alone with a cat that was acting like he’d been into the nip again. The upside of this is that our house is very clean. Cal folded all the previously-done laundry, we went through some boxes in the garage and tossed a bunch of stuff, I organized the linen closet, we tided the kitchen, did some dishes, tidied our room, tidied the lounge room… the next project was going to be the bottom shelf in the pantry, but just as we were discussing plans for that, the power came back!

JOY OF ALL JOYS! Brb, must go check ALL THE THINGS!

(The rain is still coming down. The Brisbane River is set to peak around midnight. Flood warnings coming in for all over. Schools are closing. Apparently there were over 100,000 customers without power. But for now, power is back on. We are charging phones. And hopefully, my friends, this electricity crisis does not come back again…)

‘Til next time.

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