Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Brisbane Floods Part 2

A flood makes you see your suburb in a new way.  I always thought of Fairfield as a flat place, and particularly of my street as a flat street.  The hill started on the other side of the railway line, where the streets climb quickly up to the top of the ridge.  Down on the floodplain the land appears to run evenly from the bottom of the ridge to the river.

Now I know differently.  Our street dips, then rises again.  Because we are half way up the rise, we got half flooded.  Our neighbours at the top were high and dry.  Those down in the dip were submerged.  Those two metres make all the difference.

When the floods first receded the mud painted a physical contour line on the street - below was brown, above was black.  Then as people started to clean up the mud line got blurred because cars and boots carried mud all over, and hoses swept much of it into the stormwater drains. 

A new line emerged, of broken furniture.  Riding through the suburb yesterday evening on my way back to my sister's house, I could see the places where the piles stopped.  Here, people lost masses of possessions.  Here, two doors up, none.  The change is stark, abrupt.  This line too is disappearing as the crews take the rubbish away, and we will have to work hard to remember.

This line is both the curse and the blessing of the flood.  It's a curse because there seems no reason to it, no punishment or reward, just the irrefutable logic of geography.  Remember, next time the line could change, the water could rise higher and there would be a new, even crueller line, or lower and the line would be kinder.  On the other hand it is a blessing, because there are plenty of people unaffected and on hand to help.  Many who helped us came from just up the hill - out of danger themselves, they were on hand to help those at risk. 

I guess there is a psychological line too.  If you watch the news footage it is as if the flood affected the whole city, and in a way it did.  But for some it was an inconvenience - less fruit on the shelves, power cut, transport disrupted.   For some, it means homelessness and huge financial shock.  For us, in between - major inconvenenience, but nothing seriously harmful.  For many it was an exciting event, a once in a lifetime adrenalin rush in an otherwise routine life.  And I would think some people hardly noticed it, and got on with their daily lives as if nothing was happening.

How will we see this event in the future?  Who knows, I'll think about it when the electricity is back on and the books back on the shelves.


richard said...

I always thought our house was on a hill, but we got water under the house and were supposed to go under. You may have already seen this, but it's good, and shows the mud line really clearly (on the map where you can scroll around by yourself).


Jon said...

Thanks Richard, I hadn't seen that. Heard you had some water under your house. Lose anything you cared about? That extra metre lower made a huge difference!