I was genuinely surprised the pager didn't go off that night. I was lying there in a warm bed almost wishing it would: I wanted to get out of the way the cold shock of getting up and putting my overalls on. Anyway, go off it did not. I spent most of Monday going to and from Wagga Wagga (to be covered in a later post), and the weather actually wasn't unpleasant. Nevertheless, I was still copied in on a press release from the SES's regional office which read in part -
A Severe Weather Warning is now in place for the North East weather district. Winds will ease today but are forecast to pick up speed again tomorrow morning with possible gusts of 90-110 km/h. These strong winds are expected to continue for most of Tuesday before easing early Wednesday morning and are likely to bring down trees onto roads, buildings and powerlines. ... Slow, steady rainfall of 20-40 mm is forecast for Tuesday into Wednesday. This will continue to saturate the soil and increase the chance of trees blowing or falling over in the soggy soil ....It didn't disappoint. By this morning the rain that had fallen elsewhere was percolating through the catchment and the farm had a brand new lake. I gave the dog a walk on as much high ground as we could find and stocked up the wood for the fire while the going was good.
About midday the wind began to crank up with short, sharp bursts of rain, and about 1300 when the old boy and I were going down to Nagambie to get in some cattle on the place there, my pager started beeping like crazy with trees coming down on roads and on people's property and so on. The soaked ground really left them exposed to being toppled by wind. By 2pm my Unit's Facebook page included this alert -
I was clear of the cattle by about 1500 and went over to Tatura to get stuck in. I met the crew that was already out there and we got underway by getting a fallen tree off somebody's nearly-new Chrysler. Then, a couple more trees down on roads, and a trip up to Congupna to a report of a tree fallen on the railway line (we couldn't locate that one: presumably one of the railway company's crews had already attended to it), then back to Shepparton to a tree fallen on a fence. All the while as we were driving around more jobs were coming in. It was a fairly jumbled mix of communicating by radio, pager and phone (fear of flattening my battery meant that I didn't take any photos, aside from the fact that there really wasn't time).
It's been a satisfying evening. People have been kept safe. The roads are clear (as far as I know). And everyone in the team did the work they were trained to do and did it well. We do a lot of great stuff in the SES, and this is one of those times where I'm dead proud of the team.