Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mid North Coast Floods

Catastrophic fires have ravished Victoria, massive floods have inundated far Nth Queensland and now flooding hits the mid north coast. Talk about climate change!

I played a small part in helping those affected by the floods that impacted on the Port Macquarie area last week. We’d had a heads up about severe weather in the area and had already deployed one member to be part of a management team overseeing operations. On Tuesday 17th Feb I got a phone call, “Can I be at Albion Park airport ASAP, you’re off to Port Macquarie”. An hour later I was sitting in the RFS commissioners plane heading north. Di Gordon and myself were being tasked to Wauchope to assist with potential flooding around the town.

Once at Wauchope the full extent of recent rains could be seen. Paddocks were lakes, creeks covered roads, the Hastings River was rising and still the rain fell. With some further intel and reconnaissance a plan was hashed on what could be done to reduce the impact on residents of Wauchope. Regular visits to the river gauge showed how quickly the water was rising. Predicted water levels were of concern, but just when it was thought that evacuations might be necessary upstream river heights began to steady. Some low lying farmers self helped themselves to higher ground, but as the night drew longer it was apparent that expected levels would no longer be reached.

The following morning, the major threat had passed and our work at Wauchope was done. After a visit to see the new Port Macquarie LHQ we headed down to Taree for further tasking.

My next task proved to be very enjoyable. “Dave get yourself on a helicopter and start organising resupplies for the Kempsey area” were the words that rung through my ears. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before I was on an RFS Bell 212 helicopter that had been tasked to the region. 30min later I was in Kempsey stocking up with food supplies for out lying stranded residents. Being airborne quickly made me appreciate the devastation caused by the floods. Everywhere we looked rivers had burst their banks, cattle were huddled together on small islands and roads were cut. We had small ration type bags of food onboard, that we started dropping off at isolated farms. The residents were so grateful to see us and welcomed us wherever we put down. Often I had to stop and pinch myself at how much fun can one have when helping the community. Hours spent flying around in a helicopter, doing what you love and getting to see plenty of unforgettable sights. The floods around Crescent Head were that bad that in some cases we had to winch food bags into the resident as the floods had totally inundated their properties.

Alas all good things must come to an end and we eventually run out of daylight and had to return to Port. The following day, with more of the same planned were about to take to the skies when our plans were cut short by political red tape. A few hours later my helicopter crew had been released and they were heading for home, likewise I was returning to Taree for further tasking. As it turns out this was to be my final field task. After a few hours spent tidying up loose ends at Oxley region, Di and myself were on our way home.

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