Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Two days of storms, floods and sandbags

Hi everyone,
Tuesday evening, and today has felt like a holiday in some ways.  It's been a really busy couple of days.
Sunday began with a decent bout of wind and a womping big amount of foreboding.  There was an active severe weather warning for damaging winds for the whole of the state - the Bureau of Meteorology called it a one-in-five-years wind event.  I did some farm work in the morning but for the most part waited for the storm response jobs to start coming in.  In this time I started deciphering the doppler wind radar, which I usually forget to check.
Screenshot from later in the day - before the
jobs began the colours were a lot darker!
Ultimately we got out of it fairly lightly.  The first job of the day was a loose sheet of iron on the roof of a shed in Shepparton (I dispatched the auxiliary unit to this job).  We then had a string of tree down / traffic hazard jobs, the first of which the auxiliary unit self-activated to (I was not pleased) and the others our unit went to.  As I said, our area was pretty quiet.  Judging by the radio chatter, though, Beechworth and Kilmore SES units were absolutely smashed by jobs.  I think Wangaratta SES had nearly 300.

While I was at the shed in between jobs (and after things quietened down) I mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms and then did some paperwork.  By about 1930 things seemed to have settled down and I decided to go home.  It was dead still, which I should have taken more notice of.  By the time I was halfway home a number of bands of strong rain had swept through, with the prospect of more to come.
I often check the Mt Gambier (South Australia) radar
 before I check the nearer Yarrawonga radar -
it gives a better idea of what's coming our way.
I'd been home for no more than the time it took to take my overalls off when my pager beeped.  It was a roof-damage job not far from my place, and another of our members was keen to turn out, so he brought the truck over from Tatura.  A rooftop safety system was set up and we made suitable repairs to the roof.  There were no more calls so I guess it kept them dry overnight.  I was home about 2300.
Monday started early with another pager beep at about 0630 with another tree down / traffic hazard.  One of our unit vehicles was going to be in the area, so I asked him to see if he could stop in and I'd join him on scene.  He range me after I was on the road to advise that the job was unreachable due to a major road accident which was being attended by another unit.

Absent any other options I passed the job on to the roads authority and turned around.  By then it was too late to bother going back to bed and so I put the coffee on and got on with the day.
Another job came in about 1000, with a road blocked by a tree near Toolamba.  It sounded like a large job so I activated a crew and headed over myself.  Surprisingly the job had been cleared by the time we got there (by a farmer and tractor I suspect).  The three of us were at the shed afterwards when another job came in.  We'd been asked to go and assist the police by protecting the scene of the accident I mentioned before, which was being investigated by the Major Collisions Unit.  This was a good deal less exciting than it sounds.  We were asked to stand-by outside the police line until we were needed.  In the end we waited for about an hour-and-a-half and were then released because we weren't needed afer all.  Back to the shed we went, picking up lunch on the way.

I did a couple of other things at the shed and went home.  I walked though the door about 1755.  What happened at 1805?  Off my pager went again, this time from the flooding Incident Control Centre.  They wanted volunteers to lay sandbags to buttress a levee at Koonoomoo.  "What the Hell?" I thought, and ut my hand up to go.  Three other members from the Tatura unit volunteered as well, and so up we went to the meeting point at Cobram.
Sheds and sandbags in water, Kempsey
flood, 1945 (NAA: C4078, N2582D)
I understand the work on the levee had been organised a bit on the fly, but broadly the operation went well.  That is, they kept us well supplied with food and water, and there was no shortage of sandbags to lay.  The site we had to work on though was a bit difficult - it couldn't be readily reached by vehicles, so there was a walk of a bit over a kilometre to get there, and it lay in a natural depression which had been soaked in the recent rains, so the ground was radidly churned into a slurry by the tractor and about 30 pairs of boots.  They'd done well mobilising people however - there were about a dozen SES members from different units, and another dozen or so from the Country Fire Authority, as well as about a half-dozen civilians.  The various groups worked together wonderfully well.  Despite all of us getting tired, cold, muddy and our clothes getting filled with spilt sand, I don't think there was a cross word or even a serious grumble the whole night.  We were on site at about 2030 and left the site about 0140 the next morning.  I was home and in bed by 0430.  I'm dead proud of how the members of my unit worked.  I'm proud to serve with them.

I woke about 0930 today.  I'm less stiff from laying sandbags than I thought I'd be.  The pager has stayed quiet all day save for a few administrative messages.  I've kept it quiet - cleaned my boots of mud, walked the dog, read a bit and checked emails (I didn't get the job at the Federal government).  Not much more to add, save that I've picked up a day's work over at Costerfield on Thursday.  Better than nothing.
More tomorrow.

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