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Archive for the ‘Disasters’ Category

Life has been a bit tough around here, NSW and Canberra.

First, in December, we had a death in the family and that was sad and stressful and then the bushfire smoke came in thick. It seemed like for days on end you couldn’t go outside, you had to tape the doors to stop the smoke getting in and you needed a mask to go outside. This, as you can imagine, impacted on my mental health. People I knew lost houses. I haven’t lost my house so I’ve no excuse to feel so affected. Maybe.

It was hot too and I felt like it was another summer that I wasn’t going to experience, that I was going to be stuck inside with the airconditioning. We’d built up our deck furniture but there was no point in going onto the deck, there was too much smoke.

But going outside, going to university or just out and not being able to see for more than 300 metres I started to ask myself, is this it, is this what life is going to be?

Then one day we had mustard coloured smoke. It was thick, pervasive and threatening. It was then I began to believe that I wasn’t really set up to survive the apocalypse. I’d been optimistic before about that, about surviving, about seeing humans living beyond.

At New Year we escaped the smoke and headed to Melbourne. It was great to see blue skies for a change. However, at home the smoke was getting worse. Canberra had run out of P2 masks. When we got messages about that we decided to buy a supply in Melbourne and by air purifiers. We had so many orders we really couldn’t buy more as there was no room in the car. We can back with seven of them. As we were leaving the smoke was heading to Melbourne and that big city got to experience the downside of the most massive array of fires ever.

We had a few days where the smoke haze was less and maybe life could be normal. We still took masks with us everywhere in case the wind changed and it got bad.

Then on Australia Day weekend, on the last day of a writing get together we got news of a fire starting in the Namadgi National Park, within Canberra’s borders. It came out that a defence helicopter had started the fire accidentally with its landing lights and poof up it went. The Orroral Valley Fire. Then next day it was 20,000 hectares big and we were on emergency warning level. I could see flames from my deck. I was freaked out. We evacuated ourselves early. I think the speed and the ferocity had the emergency services scrambling that first big day on Tuesday. There were regular updates about what was happening. The communication was great. Really great. We came home but we knew there was bad weather ahead. On Friday we had a record 42.7 degrees C. I evacuated us again, early. I was too stressed and freaked out to stay.

But the wind was in our favour. It didn’t come marching towards southern Canberra. Instead it spotted badly over the border into NSW, into the Clear Range. Matthew’s has a farm in the Clear Range and our suburb was on alert too. On Saturday though the wind was still favourable and predicted storms did not do any harm to the fire. We did house preparation in case there was an ember attack.

In the evening, emergency services broadcast that they had a plan. The fire was due to hit the grasslands and they said they could handle that. They bombarded with fire retardant and firebreaks and I went to bed less stressed and confident that they had it in hand. The first time in nearly a week. Sunday we listened to the emergency broadcasts and relaxed. The fire is still burning. It will burn for weeks, unless we have a week of rain. The farm is still in danger if the wind changes, but I feel better looking forward.

I write post apocalyptic fiction and I love reading it, but now I think I feel differently about it and my longer term outlook. If you aren’t prepared to survive, even a week of disrupted food and water supplies or leaving your house, then you aren’t likely to survive if society breaks down. I had a real think about this. Given my age…I turn 60 this year, maybe I shouldn’t try to survive. My efforts should go into helping my children and grand children survive. This is rather a profound thing for me. This brush with the apocalypse has shaped me, changed me.

Maybe when this crisis passes that will change, but I think not. My son lives in China with my granddaughter. With the coronavirus outbreak we were lucky that Madelyn had come here on a short holiday. She can’t go back. My son is stranded in the Phillipines where he was scuba diving. His flight was cancelled. The new flight was cancelled. His firm is thinking of sending him to Europe to an office there as who knows how long this crisis will last. My granddaughter was tested for the virus and is negative. They are not living in the the affected area and had recently moved from Shanghai.

Did I mention the hailstorm that sort of broke up the boredom of smoke filled days. Both our cars were damaged but still drivable. Thousands of cars locally damaged and undrivable.

 

And then there’s Brexit and Trump impeachment, like some sort of weird aperitif to make you vomit up your dinner instead of settling your stomach. Our own government is pretty shite!

This is a screen shot of the NSW Fire Services Fires Near Me app. You can see how many fires there are in NSW and around Canberra.

This next screen shot is near us taken last night. About fifty percent of the Namadgi National Park is gone and it’s burnt twenty percent of the land area of the ACT (Canberra). My house is near the B23 marker, about 12 kilometres from the edge of the fire. Orroral Valley fires is 56, 264 hectares in size as of today.

 

On Tuesday I left uni early because I started getting messages about offering me a place to go. I’d been working and didn’t realise the fire alert had been raised to emergency level. I started to cry on the bus seeing the fire smoke. The shot below is the smoke at the major shopping centre in Tuggeranong.

I was crying when I got off the bus. (By the way this shocks me that I totally lost it).

This was the view on Tuesday from my deck when I got home.

Later I could see flames and that’s when I decided I needed to evacuate and asked Matthew to come home from work. It was coming in fast and hard. I don’t think the emergency services were ready for this but they did a good job. And with the drought all that bush is bone dry.

The emergency services released a worst case scenario map for the weekend. It was pretty freaky. We didn’t know what the parameters were but obviously they didn’t eventuate. What did happen was the fire leaped over to NSW.

 

What started as a spot fire grew so quickly. Houses were lost and it’s still going but due to quiet winds not as badly as it could have done.

The shot below was Friday, when I was home alone and decided to get out of there. No magnification here.

 

The next is what the spot fires looked like on the app on Saturday.

It grew quickly.

Then it started to spread across the highway on Sunday. The Clear Range fire now listed as being 11,470 hectares.

 

This is why I have had a disrupted week and life. I am not sure when normal transmission will resume. It might be a new normal. I just don’t now.

 

 

 

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