A view from the waters (Australian Doctor 18 January 2011)

January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

IT rained for weeks and then got wetter in January. Climate change, anyone?

I was in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Rain was torrential but minor house repairs were needed to keep snakes out.

A teenage son and I left for a hardware store, a one-hour round trip. Creeks were swollen but we got there.

When returning, cars slowed ahead of us. A sign said, ‘Saltwater over road’. The water looked shallow and I figured driving slowly meant salt would barely touch the car. A speeding bus in the opposite lane disproved that theory.

Rain kept bucketing down. Out of town, I pulled over so a large van would pass. They could be my flood marker. Cars are occasionally lost crossing the local creeks.

The van was moving quickly but I kept up. Its tail lights were more visible than the road.

The van braked at a long section of flooded road. It crept forward into the water but then stopped. I realised that instead of fondling a length of rope in the hardware store, I should have bought it.

The van then accelerated and was soon on its way. I decided to take the plunge. Momentum would be my friend.

Apparently you need to go above 60kmh to hydroplane. I was not going that fast but in the most treacherous and rapid-flowing section my tyres created the second-biggest plume of water I’ve ever seen. Man, I scared the bejesus out of that creek.

The next day, I got smarter and checked the tide times before leaving for Brisbane. We were safely home before the highway closed.

A day later, I drove to work in outer suburbia. My usual route was impassable but a short detour did the trick.

Half-a-dozen patients into the day, I was told the clinic would close. Nearby creeks were rising and staff could be trapped for days. Toowoomba’s unbelievable flash flood a day earlier didn’t help anxiety levels.

I saw a couple more patients and shut up shop. I was preparing to leave when a journalist called. I explained I was rushed and asked why he had rung. He wanted flood news.

Unfortunately for his story, I wasn’t carrying a patient through flood water. I similarly disappointed another journalist a day later.

On the way home, I stopped at a supermarket. The checkout chick congratulated me on the day’s best panic buy.

As Brisbane flooded, I sat safely at home feeling vaguely fraudulent. The internet was alive with images of flood victims I could not assist. Most lived in Brazil but many were just kilometres away. I could not even get to my hostel patients.

I view most politicians dimly but several shone during the floods. In recent decades, Western leaders have encouraged the strong to help themselves. This disaster has made our leaders encourage the strong to help the weak. Building human communities, instead of destroying them for a dollar, is a lovely change. Let us hope it lasts.

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