Saturday, January 26, 2008

Living a Johnny Cash song

The river is rising. Yesterday the flood measuring marker had it at just over 4½ meters, today it’s up over 5. Maybe 3 centimeters an hour. Just breaching the lowest-lying portions of the walking path beside it. Later this evening it should spill over into the riverside carpark I used on a workdaily basis for the last two years.

The river is picking up speed. Ten knots per hour the news reports say, using the nautical terminology that I suppose is appropriate for the event. My maths memory does rough calculations. 11½ mph, 18½ kph. Marathon speed.

It’s full of clumps of weed torn off from banks, torn out from normally stagnant washes. The odd log.

The river is brown. Stirred-up mud, about 20 shades darker than normal.

It’s still just a tourist attraction. Will probably continue to be so. It will cause little damage, maybe close a couple of roads, flood a couple of hundred properties, leave the racecourse under water. The local Australia Day event which was meant to be in the riverside park today was moved to higher ground. Maybe they’ll invite Stevie Wonder to sing the National Anthem.

The car races & the bull-riding competition will still go on. That probably says everything you need to know about the place.

I saw a couple of pelicans out on the river. Very close to the bank. Not handling the flow with their usual elegance; instead bobbing & weaving, but still moving upsteam against the current. Yesterday I saw a boat trying to manouevre its way to a safe haven, starting off by trying to go upstream first before using the current to take it back closer to where it wanted to go. It had a hard job of it. The pelicans didn’t seem to have that amount of difficulty.

I have always thought that the lagoon at the bottom of our street was replenished by the river breaking its banks before reaching the town & coming inland via the airport. I have learnt that it is instead replenished when the flood moves inland once the river has passed the town. That it fills up what is currently an overgrown creek bed beneath a ricketty weight-restricted bridge, then moves through what used to be the Woolwash Lagoon — when we arrived here, a home to a large colony of black swans; now, less than 5 years later dried-up & overgrown with trees & nothing more than the memory of its shape to indicate what it used to be — & then on via the Yeppen floodplain until it reaches the lagoon of the same name. It is surprisingly deep. Though the water area has decreased, it’s always had lots of water in it. & pelicans. But that marker in the diagram below from the Bureau of Meteorology indicating the level at which a flood will lap the Yeppen crossing (only half a kilometer away) means that some ways out may be blocked to us.

The river is supposed to peak on Tuesday at 8.2m. Way below the big ones. It won’t affect us directly, but the supermarket shelves were empty of bread last night, & bottled water & UHT milk are doing a roaring trade. & mosquito repellant, for they are breeding like crazy, & that is probably the most serious aspect to it all, given that the little sharp-pronged insect can be a vector for things like dengue & Q fever.

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