Print Story River Views
By Scrymarch (Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 07:56:54 AM EST) (all tags)
"I like managing non-events," an operations manager I used to work with would say. I remember it particularly because his popularity was less than universal. He said it about the support on 31 December, 1999. It was a silicon gully firm, in the little run of Brisbane tech companies tucked between Coronation Drive and the XXXX brewery. I do recall one meeting where he got rather excited about referring to a WAP prototype we had knocked together as "a solution looking for a problem". Well, not exactly: it's a prototype, we wrote it two ways because we wanted to think through the problem. He used to nick bottles of wine from Friday drinks and go home, which is a bit dodgy and unsociable. He did do his job done though, kept the machines and networks running. I didn't work in ops but I remember his catchphrase because when he moved on to another place someone wrote on his card "Dear OM, being managed by you was a non-event."

That office was underwater a few days ago. Well, bits of it.

This is a shot of up the road from that office. This is a famous pub a bit up the road from my house. The pub is near the mouth of Breakfast Creek, which the paper rather unfairly calls featureless; I think of it as an amiable little watercourse myself, muddy and shaded with mangroves. We are upstream, and then back about half a km.

It's a fairly flat area, but we weren't too worried when we got the first warnings of rising waters. According to the council, the property didn't get wet in 1974. According to the neighbours it made it to the yard, but the house was ok. Like many Brisbane houses (and Queenslander houses v, it's on stumps, as well. '74 was the flood year, you see, the only one of the twentieth century. Before my time, and yet still etched into common memory for a local boy. John Birmingham gets it right, even if he is from Ipswich. And after 1974 a whopping great dam was built upstream to make sure it didn't happen again.

The psychogeography of Brisbane is defined by 1974 and it redefined the geography in turn. Everyone has their family stories. My parents went to see the Harlem Globetrotters that night at Festival Hall. A few hours after they left it was underwater. And so on. Repeat. When we bought a house, we made sure it was above the floodline. Plus stumps, plus a whopping great dam. Buffer.

It had been all over the state, this water, straight after a drought, full of the bitch irony of weather that doesn't work on human scale. It hadn't hit us much more than walking in puddles and lawns getting out of control. It was getting close to home. Flash floods washing cars away in Toowoomba, a town on top of a mountain. Some grandparents there, we drove up that range every year as kids, in second gear. And the Brisbane flood warning was nasty - a hundred years is too short for non-human scale - but we were still ok. Then Tuesday afternoon they started predicting more than 5.45 metres; more than 1974, dams filled, peak at high tide on Thursday. They wouldn't stick to a figure, maybe 1.5 metres, that's bloody close for comfort. Businesses send people home, CBD gets evacuated, sort of. Suburb listed as impacted.

I finish work early, Dad comes, sister's bloke turns up with a ute, we empty the shed of the major things. Packing. Wednesday morning, prediction revised back to 5.5 metres, 1974 level. Minimarch asks to put the iPod on.

Appliances playlist:
My Dream of a Magical Washing Machine    3:47    Laura Imbruglia   
Television, the Drug of the Nation    6:38    The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised    3:07    Gil Scott-Heron   
Turn The Lamp Down Low    5:17    The Tea Party    Edges Of Twilight
On The Radio    3:22    Regina Spektor    Begin To Hope
Radio GA GA    5:43    Queen    Greatest Hits II
I Hate The TV    2:10    Violent Femmes    Add It Up (1981-1993)
Coffee & TV    5:19    Blur    The Best Of [Disc 1]
Our Love Is Here To Stay    3:36    Shirley Horn
Radio    4:13    Vienna Teng    Inland Territory (Bonus Track Version)
Headphones    5:40    Bj?rk    Post
No Phone    3:52    Cake    Pressure Chief

((Note to self: Shirley Horn better closing song for future disasters.))

Minimarch dropped off with my Mum in the first load, B's dad and uncle bring trucks and trailers, we empty the house. Radar pictures show little rain on Brisbane, it's all upstream. Radio tuned to ABC news in the car, TV tuned to ABC 24 at Mum and Dad's house. 1974 stories in the car. People texting, asking after us, offering help, we're ok, they're ok. Power at Mum and Dad's is cut off, it's so deep in the suburbs it's not even Brisbane city council, and way up a hill. So much for the DR site. Head back to the house for the final round. Council guy drops letters to say we need to prepare the house just as we're about to leave. Drive out past the bowls club, which always gets the rain runoff, it's flooded with at least half a metre of water.

No one seems to mention the 1893 flood. The one where it reached 8.35 metres. I have to look it up on wikipedia to even remember the year. Lots of good info coming on the friend mailing list, people watching twitter. I don't send this one on.

Head even further out to B's parents, they're further out anyway.

Prediction drops again, 1m less than 1974, we should be ok, nothing left in the house to sleep on anyway. Go back to work online.

Find Breakfast Creek River Height measure is online. This is the mark our property flood level is surveyed against. It's about 1.5 metres lower than the Brisbane gauge on the news, which was about my mental rule of thumb. Conference call. 1893. Sleep.

Thursday morning. Peak is 1m short of 1974, we should be fine. I work, B goes back to check it out. Our neighbours in a higher set house stayed put, and didn't see any water. It stopped two blocks away instead.

We moved most of the stuff back today. Lots of other places weren't so lucky. They're in the news. Mud is the minimum. Apparently sharks are a hazard.

Should borrow some gum boots.


< It's the first thing you notice when you look at a planisphere, C'MON. | This love. >
River Views | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
Good job by ana (4.00 / 2) #1 Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 08:36:09 AM EST
...managing what (thankfully) turned out to be a non-event.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

Glad you and the family are ok by yankeehack (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 10:49:19 AM EST
Floods are no fun. When I was growing up, our house backed up to a river - which thankfully had a very very large undeveloped area to flood in.

No floods in the house for 26 years, but it got very close a few times in the spring.
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB

another for your soundtrack by clover kicker (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 12:21:32 PM EST

Floods are scary, we're not used to being completely at the mercy of the elements.

I grew up along a river but it's hilly country, most people lived 10s of meters above the flood level. Also it floods almost every spring as the ice comes out of the river, so people are used to the idea and well prepared.

The one I remember most vividly is the flood that tore out 2 railroad bridges. Some bright spark tried to save 1 of the bridges by parking railroad cars full of fertilizer on top so the weight would keep the ice from lifting it off the supports... You can imagine how long this resisted an icepack being pushed by a hundred kilometers of raging floodwater upstream.

And yeah psychogeography is a good word. Everyone knows the waterline from the last "big one" in living memory.

Sounds like by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #5 Sun Jan 16, 2011 at 07:47:34 PM EST
A good way to destroy some perfectly good railroad cars.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
they did find one of the railway cars by clover kicker (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Jan 16, 2011 at 10:54:58 PM EST
It was a kilometer downstream.

[ Parent ]
Had the Army turn up once by Phage (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 01:21:44 PM EST
In the Hawkesbury when we reached 13m in the 80's. We were drunk teenagers and told him to go away (or words to that effect).
He just pointed at the little waves breaking on the street about 50m away. We packed. The big difference now seems to be the communications are much better. We had no idea at the time.

River Views | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)