Saturday, 8 October 2011

A Reminder of Storm Seasons Past

16 November 2008, when the palm tree fell across the
driveway, and our street turned into a waterway.
This morning, I woke up to severe storm warnings repeatedly on the radio, and text and email alerts from the Brisbane City Council's Early Warning Centre.

While I rushed to make sure the car was locked in the garage, and told the kids to bring in any loose stuff from outside, I remembered another severe storm, not all that long ago.

It was 2008's storm season, and I was still working at the hospital. In what became known variously as "Supercell Sunday" and "The Gapocalypse", the suburbs of The Gap, and Keperra, and others surrounding us were hit by a series of intense storms, referred to on the day as "mini-cyclones."

The storm had begun as I was driving home. Rain was making visibility minimal, and there was water over the road.  I know that there is a good reason the police warn people against driving on flooded roads - but I knew my son was home alone. He didn't cope with storms at all well then, mostly because the dog went berserk and he couldn't cope with the dog.

So, I drove on, past other cars parked at the side of the road.

I came to the end of our street and turned in - to find it was blocked by fallen trees. I went round the long way to the other end of the street, and trees fell down behind me as I drove in.  I got home, and moved the bird cage from the patio into the garage, and put the car away, just as the worst of the hail, wind and lightening began.

Our power went out. Phone lines went down. For about 24 hours we were without normal lines of communication.  In the brief times the mobile phones would get a signal, I was able to contact my daughter and tell her to stay at the friend's house she was visiting until further notice.

Only a couple of weeks before the storm, I had attended a disaster management seminar. It was quite amazing to see everything I had learned about in theory roll out in practice around me. Emergency centres were set up, information came out on the radio. (I'd had to go and buy a battery-operated radio - even having been to the seminar, I wasn't ready.) A warning came out fairly quickly that our water supply could be contaminated, so we had to get bottled water.

Almost as soon as the storm was over, neighbours started helping each other out. Someone in our street had a chainsaw, and started cutting up the trees that had fallen on the road and across our driveways.

What amazed me when time came to clean up our yard, was my son. At age 14, he understood my limitations.  He saw me attempting to cut back broken branches, and announced, "Mum, you can't do that." He did it. He cut broken branches, he dragged corrugated iron (which had been a carport from across the road) to the rubbish pick up point on the footpath. He worked harder in those few days when we had no power than I had ever seen either of my kids work on anything.

I did still do more than I should have. There was no way out of it, there was just too much to do, and many of the jobs in the clean-up my son didn't know how to do alone. I did enough to show him how.

I needed a lot of sleep time to catch up, but I made it through without my lupus becoming worse, mostly thanks to my amazing son who on that day showed me he was not a child any more, but a responsible young man.

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